quality of the underlying intelligence sources; were balanced and measured; identified explicitly those areas where previous assessments had been wrong, and the reasons why, to correct the record; and at each significant stage included consideration of alternative hypotheses and scenarios, and provided an explanation of the consequences were any to arise, to aid readers’ understanding.
We recognise that assessments in the chemical and biological weapons fields are intrinsically more difficult, and that analysis draws on different intelligence techniques. We are conscious in particular that, because chemical and biological weapons programmes can draw heavily on ‘dual use’ materials, it is easier for a proliferating state to keep its programmes covert. The intelligence community will also have had in mind that Iraq had used its chemical weapons in the past, and was engaged in a sustained programme to try to deceive United Nations inspectors and to conceal from them evidence of its prohibited programmes. Even so, we have found JIC assessments in these areas less assured. Our impression is that they were less complete, especially in their considerations of alternative hypotheses; used a different ‘burden of proof’ in testing Iraqi declarations; and hence inclined towards over-cautious or worst case estimates, carrying with them a greater sense of suspicion and an accompanying propensity to disbelieve. We return to this point in our Conclusions.
1998 – MARCH 2002
THE POLICY CONTEXT
In this Section, we consider the intelligence and the use made of it in the period from the withdrawal of United Nations inspectors in 1998 to early 2002.
1998 was marked by rising tensions between the United Nations and Iraq over the ability of UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors to carry out their work, in particular their ability to carry out inspections at presidential compounds and palaces. We judge that this tension had an impact on the way in which the intelligence community assessed the intelligence available to it, and in particular contributed to the climate of suspicion on which we have remarked in the previous Section.
It will also have had an influence on policy-makers, in shaping the overall context within which they read JIC assessments. The Government’s policy position at that time was encapsulated in the statement by the Prime Minister to the House of Commons on 24 February 1998 on the most recent crisis over UNSCOM and IAEA inspections. That provides an insight not only into the way in which the Government viewed events in Iraq itself but also the broader context within which policy towards Iraq was made, both then and over the next few years. In his statement in 1998, the Prime Minister said that:
. . . This has not been an artificial argument about some theoretical threat, but a reflection of real alarm on the part of UN inspectors about the use of [Presidential compounds] to conceal both evidence and actual weapons . . .
Saddam began by saying that there could be no access to the sites. Then,unde r intense pressure,not least from the start of build-up of forces in the Gulf ,he