metal off the inside and outside. This was paradoxical, since Iraq had laid down very fine tolerances for the tubes.
The JIC, in March 2002, was careful in its description of the seized tubes:
A shipment stopped in Jordan was inspected by the IAEA,who accepted,that w ith some modifications,the aluminium would be suitable for use in centrifuges . But we have no definitive intelligence that the aluminium was destined for a nuclear programme.
[JIC, 15 March 2002]
The Government’s dossier of September 2002 said:
Intelligence shows that the present Iraqi programme is almost certainly seeking an indigenous ability to enrich uranium to the level needed for a nuclear weapon. It indicates that the approach is based on gas centrifuge uranium enrichment,one of the routes Iraq was following for producing fissile material before the Gulf War . . .
Iraq has also made repeated attempts covertly to acquire a very large quantity (60,000 or more) of specialised aluminium tubes. The specialised aluminium in question is subject to international export controls because of its potential application in the construction of gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium,although there is no definitive intelligence that it is destined for a nuclear programme.
The JIC both reported the IAEA’s caution on the need for modifications and reflected the uncertainty about the purpose to which the tubes might be put. The dossier repeated the JIC’s language on this latter point. But we consider that the omission from the dossier of the fact that the tubes would need substantial re-engineering before they could be used materially strengthened the impression that they were suitable for gas centrifuge use.
There was, from the outset, an alternative explanation available for the aluminium tubes. Their potential for use as rocket motor casings was mentioned in intelligence reporting as early as summer 2001. One of the earliest intelligence reports recorded that Iraq had been seeking tubes of the same precise specification from Switzerland “probably for the Iraqi Air Force”. Other reports also suggested possible conventional military uses for the tubes. Combined with the known engineering obstacles to the use of the tubes as centrifuge rotors, this uncertainty contributed to the JIC’s unwillingness to conclude that the tubes had a definite nuclear application.
On 11 April 2003, the IAEA reported to the Security Council as follows:
The IAEA conducted a thorough investigation of Iraq’s attempts to purchase large quantities of [high-strength aluminium] tubes. As previously reported, Iraq has maintained that these aluminium tubes were sought for rocket production. Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets.
[Fifteenth Consolidated Report of the Director General of the IAEA, 11 April 2003]