We have sought in particular to examine whether there is anything in JIC assessments made over the period from 1990 to 2003 which might illuminate the central conundrum that underlay the establishment of our Review – the apparent absence, against expectations, of significant stocks of chemical and biological agents and weapons, and of longer-range ballistic missiles, when coalition forces entered Iraq in 2003. We recognise that we have the advantage of hindsight in doing so.
We looked first at JIC assessments and underpinning intelligence reports in the period from 1990, prior to the first Gulf war, to the departure of United Nations inspectors in 1998. We set out the JIC’s judgements in some detail (as we do throughout this Chapter). We have chosen not to comment in as much detail in this Section on the underpinning intelligence reports or on the sources. In part, this is because many of the JIC’s judgements changed in later years as new intelligence was received. In part, it is because the most authoritative information on the status of Iraq’s nuclear, biological, chemical and ballistic missile programmes in this period came from reports produced by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) derived from their inspection activities on the ground. But it may help in setting the context for what follows to record that our Review has shown that the intelligence agencies contributed to a steady flow of intelligence covering Iraqi procurement activities, attempts to break United Nations sanctions, concealment of prohibited programmes and plans for handling UNSCOM and IAEA inspections. Intelligence reporting increased in volume as the dispute between the Iraqi regime and the United Nations developed in 1998.
IRAQ’S NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAMME
A JIC assessment produced in September 1990 noted that:
Our assessment is that,unless it receives significant external assistanc e,it will take Iraq:
at least three years to establish a production capability for fissile material;
one more year before sufficient weapons-grade material would be available for the production of one nuclear device; and
a further year or more (ie 1995 at the earliest) before there would be enough material for a small stockpile of 3–4 weapons. [JIC, 27 September 1990]
That assessment was based on the Iraqis using only a centrifuge route to the enrichment of fissile material, an assumption later shown to be incorrect. But it did cover, on the basis of intelligence, the ability of the Iraqi regime to implement a ‘crash programme’ to acquire a nuclear device in a considerably shorter time. The JIC noted that doing so would require Iraq to order diversion to military purposes of nuclear material stored at civil sites, in breach of the IAEA safeguards regime; to recover unburnt uranium from reactor fuel; and