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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 12:23 GMT 13:23 UK
Blair's dossier assessed


This dossier explains the determination of the United States and British Governments to tackle Saddam Hussein.

It is even clearer now that if Saddam Hussein does not comply with the demands to disarm and allow unlimited inspections, the pace of diplomacy will become a torrent of war.


The report will strengthen the case for action among governments which are looking for reasons to support a new Security Council resolution with an ultimatum and a threat

This is the case for the prosecution.

The report will strengthen the case for action among governments which are looking for reasons to support a new United Nations Security Council resolution with an ultimatum and a threat. They will find it compelling.

It does however leave enough loopholes for others to say that it is not conclusive.

Nuclear weapons

As expected, there is no claim that Iraq has made a nuclear weapon.

But a great deal of the detail supporting the charges that Iraq is trying to make one is new.

In particular, the list of equipment Iraq has allegedly been trying to buy abroad to build gas centrifuges to extract weapons grade uranium is important.


The weakness of such reports is that nobody actually knows what is going on in such factories. And the report acknowledges that the factories can also be used for benign industrial purposes

The list includes the attempted acquisition of uranium from an unspecified African country, vacuum pumps needed to maintain pressure in a centrifuge, an entire "magnet production line" for use in the motors and top bearings of centrifuges, anhydrous hydrogen fluoride (AHF) and fluorine gas used in the extraction process, a large filament winding machine, a large balancing machine and 60,000 or more aluminium tubes which could be used to construct the centrifuges.

The lists sounds impressive but critics will point out that Iraq does not seem to have actually managed to get hold of these items and that some (including the aluminium tubes, which have been mentioned before) could be used for other purposes, as the dossier itself accepts.

Nor is the raw intelligence, on which the claims are made, revealed.


The accumulation of this kind of detail will convince some; others will say that the threat is not imminent

The conclusion can be used by both those supporting and those opposing immediate military action.

It says on the one hand that "while sanctions remain effective, Iraq would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon".

That is an argument for sanctions.

But it adds: "If Iraq obtained fissile material from foreign sources, Iraq could produce a nuclear weapons in between one and two years."

That is an argument for action.

Chemical and biological weapons

The dossier says that Saddam Hussein did hide stocks of chemical and biological weapons after the Gulf War.

It says that 360 tonnes of bulk chemical agents were unaccounted for, including 1.5 tonnes for the most deadly gas of all, VX.

Growth media for three times the 8,500 litres of anthrax to which Iraq admitted have also not been found, the report says.


As concerns links to international terrorism, well, this issue is not dealt with in this report

But the key elements in the dossier relate to Iraq's efforts to rebuild its ability to manufacture chemical and biological weapons.

It points to several factories which have been rebuilt. It says that a new chemical research centre has been built and is run by a scientist who used to work on the nuclear weapons programme.

On the biological side, it claims that a castor oil plant, which could be used to produce the biological agent ricin, has been rebuilt. It also refers to information from defectors that Iraq has made mobile laboratories to help produce biological weapons.

The weakness of such reports is that nobody actually knows what is going on in such factories. And the report acknowledges that the factories can also be used for benign industrial purposes.

There is new information about Iraq's plans and ability to deploy chemical and biological weapons on the battlefield within 45 minutes.

Again, this claim cannot be proved, and is possibly based on defector' reports.

Delivery systems

The section on Iraq's programme to develop its ballistic missiles is not the most interesting part of the dossier.

It accuses Iraq of hiding up to 20 al-Hussein (Scud) missiles with a range of 650 km.

That claim has been made before.

One dramatic claim -- that Iraq has a missile which could hit British bases in Cyprus -- is a little misleading. It sounds as if this capability is new. It is not. Scud missiles could have hit those bases in the Gulf War. And it is not even certain that Iraq still has any Scuds.

Something new is alleged in a photograph said to be of an engine testing-bed to be used to develop a rocket with a range of over 1,000 km.

Such a rocket could hit well into Europe.


As expected, there is no claim that Iraq has made a nuclear weapon, but a great deal of the detail supporting the charges that Iraq is trying to make one is new

It repeats a charge that Iraq is trying to extend the range of two shorter range missiles which it is allowed to possess.

The dossier suggests that Iraq could use chemical or biological warheads on its rockets but has no evidence that these have been made.

A photo is shown of a Czech-made L 29 jet trainer which could be converted into a drone to spray chemical weapons.

Again, that charge is not new, but it is potentially significant.

However, the report speaks only of Iraqi "attempts" to convert this plane.

The accumulation of this kind of detail will convince some; others will say that the threat is not imminent.

As concerns links to international terrorism - well, this issue is not dealt with in this report.




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24 Sep 02 | Politics
24 Sep 02 | Middle East
23 Sep 02 | Panorama
24 Sep 02 | Americas
24 Sep 02 | Politics
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