Chilcot: False Intelligence Led To Iraq Invasion Which Spawned IS

Allegations that the invasion of Iraq increased the terrorist threat to the UK and helped spawn the terror group Islamic State are supported by intelligence documents released as part of the Chilcot report.

Top-secret reports from the joint intelligence committee, some of which were released for the first time, make clear security services’ concern about the increasing power in Iraq of jihadi groups, some of which were linked directly to al-Qaida.

The reports show that by 2006 the British security services had become worried that Sunni jihadi groups had started to dominate the insurgency against the Shia-led Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki.

The invasion of Iraq has horrible consequences even today, a bloodbath in Baghdad and an Islamic State terror war against the world. What is not sure is whether the existence of weapons of mass destruction was the primary motive for the military action. Perhaps regime change, the removal of Saddam Hussein, who was seen by Bush and Blair as part of the evil that had led to 9/11, was the dominant motive. However, eradication of WMD was the aim that the leading governments of the coalition stated as their main justification for the war, and it is therefore natural that we focus on it.

In the months preceding the invasion, the UN inspection force carried out some 700 inspections without finding any WMD, and in the months that followed investigators from the US came to the same conclusion. If the aim was to eradicate WMD the bloodshed, death and destruction has been meaningless. How convinced were the leaders in the US and UK of the existence of the weapons in the days and weeks before the war?

Blair responded that the intelligence was clear: Saddam had revived his WMD programme. However, the French president, Jacques Chirac, had a different view. He he thought there were no WMD and that the various national intelligence agencies had “intoxicated” each other when sharing information. They had. In addition, the cautionary question marks they sometimes provided had been replaced by exclamation marks at the political level. 

MI6 was led to believe Saddam Hussein was continuing to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by a false agent who based his reports on a Hollywood action movie, the Chilcot Inquiry has disclosed.

In September 2002, MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove said the agency had acquired information from a new source revealing that Iraq was stepping up production of chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents.

The source, who was said to have "direct access", claimed senior staff were working seven days a week while the regime was concentrating a great deal of effort on the production of anthrax.

Families of the senior scientists involved were said to have been effectively made hostage to discourage them from deserting or leaking details to the US/UK coalition against Saddam.

What is now clear from some of the intelligence operatives is that a senior member of Saddam’s government wanted to take Saddam down and he falsified and supported the concept that Saddam’s regime had WMD. The British intelligence operations who had the misinformation from the informer concerning WMD knew the information was unsound and had not been backed by other informers. 

However, questions were raised about the agent's claims when it was noticed his description bore a striking resemblance to a scene from the movie The Rock, starring Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage.

"It was pointed out that glass containers were not typically used in chemical munitions, and that a popular movie (The Rock) had inaccurately depicted nerve agents being carried in glass beads or spheres," the Chilcot report stated.

By February 2003 - a month before the invasion of Iraq - MI6 concluded that their source had been lying "over a period of time" but failed to inform No 10 "or others", even though Mr. Blair had been briefed on his intelligence.

However, Blair, and other leaders, used the unsupported ‘information’ and they misrepresented the reality. They used it to urge a war over the faulty picture they had created. 

While the Chilcot report does not express a view on the legality of war, it says that Iraq in 2003 did not pose a threat that justified a war, and that it would have taken years to reconstitute a weapons programme.

It was not launched by the US and UK in self-defence against Iraqi aggression, and it was not authorised by the security council. Saddam was a brutal dictator, but in 2003 he was a threat to no one but his own people, and Iraq was prostrate after more than a decade of international sanctions. Three permanent members of the security council, China, France and Russia, explicitly opposed the action, and hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of New York, London and other cities demonstrated against it.

The Chilcot report noted that the objectives set for the war were not attained. Weapons of mass destruction were not eradicated, as they did not exist; al-Qaida groups were not eliminated, as they were not in Iraq at the time; Iraq was not made into a model of democracy for the Middle East, as members of the US administration had predicted. Saddam was removed but Iraq evolved from tyranny to anarchy, with various alienated Sunni groups later forming a core of Isis. Thirteen years after the US, and UK, led invasion of Iraq, many questions linked to the war remain. Above all, what lessons should we draw?

One lesson relates to the value of international inspection. In the case of Iraq, the US and UK went ahead with the invasion on the basis of their own faulty intelligence. Nevertheless, the broader membership of the security council kept faith with the professional UN inspectors and helped prevent the council from endorsing a war that should never have been waged. That was significant, as independent and competent international inspections remain indispensable, for example in defusing the controversy over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Another lesson concerns the readiness of states to resort to armed intervention. The Bush administration was not particularly bothered about UN charter restrictions on the use of armed force. Iraq under Saddam was seen as a part of the “axis of evil”, and as such a legitimate target. Liberated from Saddam, Iraq would become a democracy with friendly ties to the US. Blair, as he had explained in a speech in Chicago in 1999, clearly sympathised with the thought that states capable of acting against odious tyrants could assume the role of global sheriffs and intervene with armed force when other options failed.

However, respecting established UK readings of the UN charter, he made an effort to get a specific security council resolution that might justify armed action in Iraq. The efforts failed and the American train moved on to invasion with the UK on board.

Finally, there may be hope that a disastrous experience in Iraq could be a watershed in the resort by states to armed intervention. We have seen how, in the post-colonial world, the grabbing of land by force is largely over – Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait and Russia’s annexation of Crimea being widely condemned exceptions.

Barack Obama is clearly aware of the popular reluctance in the US to place boots on the ground in faraway places, and of the perils of intervening with armed force without UN authorisation. 

Guardian:   Guardian:   Sky

 

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