A JIC assessment of August 1995 included an assessment of evidence provided by Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamil, after his defection, and of new information which was drawn out from the Iraqi regime as a result of that defection. The JIC noted that: Iraq also admits it previously concealed the full extent of its nuclear programme. It has revealed that in August 1990 it began a crash programme,later abandone d,to build a nuclear weapon within a year. [JIC, 24 August 1995]
The JIC also noted that Iraq:
. . . intended to use nuclear material held under IAEA safeguards in Iraq. The Iraqis claim the plan was abandoned because they concluded that the IAEA would detect their activities. In fact,they had insufficient fissile material to make a n uclear device. Hussein Kamil’s reported claim that,at the time of the Gulf conflict,Iraq w as only three months from completing a nuclear weapon probably refers to the ‘crash programme’. It is very unlikely to be true.
[JIC, 24 August 1995]
JIC assessments in the period after 1995 to the departure of the United Nations inspectors focussed on continuing IAEA activities, and on Iraq’s residual indigenous capabilities. They included a consistent JIC assessment that, if all United Nations controls on Iraq’s nuclear activities were removed, Iraq could possibly develop a nuclear device in around five years. We have taken as a useful summary of Iraqi capabilities at that time a JIC assessment in February 1998 that:
UNSCOM and the IAEA have succeeded in destroying or controlling the vast majority of Saddam’s 1991 weapons of mass destruction (WMD) capability.
[JIC, 4 February 1998]
IRAQ’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS PROGRAMME
In reviewing JIC assessments of Iraq’s chemical weapons programme, we were struck at the outset by the impact of a single intelligence report received in November 1990 on the then Iraqi chemical warfare capability. (We cover at Chapter 6 the impact of reporting from this source on JIC assessments of Iraqi possession and production of plague and ‘dusty mustard’.) The report added new detail to the JIC’s existing body of knowledge, covering the types of chemical agents held in the Iraqi stockpile; the capabilities of those agents; their weaponisation into free-fall bombs; the availability of suitable ballistic missiles for the delivery of particular agents; and the volumes of each type of agent, and hence of the total chemical agent stockpile. JIC assessments picked up key details from this report, including putting Iraq’s total chemical agent stocks in the range 15,000–22,000 tonnes - a figure adopted briefly by the JIC.
We can understand how such a detailed report, received only a little before the onset of hostilities, would have caught the attention of the intelligence community. We can also understand how, in such circumstances, the JIC might have felt that it needed to present a worst case assessment, and to let those responsible for operational planning have all