The Government considered in March 2002 two options for achieving the goal of Iraqi disarmament – a toughening of the existing containment policy; and regime change by military means. Ministers were advised that, if regime change was the chosen policy, only the use of overriding force in a ground campaign would achieve the removal of Saddam Hussein and Iraq’s re-integration with the international community. Officials noted that regime change of itself had no basis in international law; and that any offensive military action against Iraq could only be justified if Iraq were held to be in breach of its disarmament obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 or some new resolution. Officials also noted that for the five Permanent Members of the Security Council and the majority of the 15 members of the Council to take the view that Iraq was in breach of its obligations under Resolution 687, they would need to be convinced that Iraq was in breach of its obligations; that such proof would need to be incontrovertible and of large-scale activity; but that the intelligence then available was insufficiently robust to meet that criterion.
This advice, and a parallel JIC assessment, formed part of the background for the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Bush at Crawford on 6–7 April 2002. The themes of the British Government’s policy framework established as a result of that meeting and work in subsequent months echoed those of 1998 - the importance of the United Nations; the need to get United Nations inspectors back into Iraq; and the value of increasing pressure on the Iraqi regime, including through military action.
Intelligence on Iraqi nuclear, biological, chemical and ballistic missile programmes was used in support of the execution of this policy, for three main purposes:
To inform planning for a military campaign if that should be necessary, in particular, in relation to unconventional weapons, for providing the necessary safeguards for coalition troops, diplomatic personnel and others; and for targeting.
To inform domestic and international opinion of the UK’s assessment of Iraq’s holdings, programmes and intentions, in support of the Government’s advocacy of its changing policy towards Iraq.
To obtain and provide information to United Nations inspectors about the likely locations of weapons and programmes which contravened the terms of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
We draw our Conclusions on the sources, assessment and use of intelligence in the following paragraphs against that policy background. In doing so, we are conscious that Iraq was not the only issue on which the intelligence agencies, the JIC and the departments concerned were working during this period. It is a common temptation for reviews of this nature to comment as if those concerned were doing nothing else and should have had their attention concentrated full-time on the subject under review. In this case, for much of the period up to mid-2002, many other issues were more