We conclude that the impression left by JIC assessments in the mind of readers at the time of departure of United Nations inspectors will have been of suspicion and concern about Iraq’s break-out capability, coupled with possible possession of chemical agent stockpiles, in breach of its United Nations obligations.
IRAQ’S BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS PROGRAMME
A JIC assessment produced in June 1992 included the JIC’s judgement that:
. . . Iraq retains a potential BW agent production capability and has hidden BW weapons.
[JIC, 4 June 1992]
The JIC reached broadly the same conclusion in two assessments in 1993. As with chemical weapons, however, by 1994/95 the JIC was becoming more sanguine about the size of the biological agent stockpile. In an assessment in September 1994, the JIC noted that:
There is little need for hidden stockpiles of BW weapons or agents. Small quantities of agent could be quickly and covertly produced . . .
[JIC, 8 September 1994]
As with JIC assessments on Iraq’s chemical weapons programmes, that judgement represented the low point in assessments of the status of the Iraqi biological weapons programme. Thereafter, following the defection of Hussein Kamil and the Iraqi admission of an extensive biological weapons programme, the JIC had growing concerns that Iraq was concealing biological agent stocks. Thus, in an assessment in June 1996, the JIC noted that:
We do not believe Iraqi statements that the BW programme has been destroyed. Possibly substantial elements,including some production equipment and weaponised agent,continue to be concealed.
[JIC, 12 June 1996]
We enquired into the reason for this shift in the JIC’s view, in the apparent absence of underpinning reliable intelligence. We were told that the changed assessment was based on the impact of Hussein Kamil’s defection, UNSCOM’s inability to reconcile Iraqi claims for production and destruction, unaccounted-for growth media and a total lack of co- operation from the Iraqis.
The JIC included a similar judgement in an assessment in December 1997, which noted that Iraq:
may have retained hidden BW production equipment,agent and delivery
and that it:
. . . could,in any event,regenerate a significant offensive BW capability w ithin months . . .
[JIC, 4 December 1997]