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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 July, 2004, 06:40 GMT 07:40 UK
Q&A: The weapons evidence
The Butler report was critical of the way the government's case about Iraq's alleged weapons of destruction was presented. BBC News Online explains what happened.

What did Lord Butler say about the weapons intelligence?

The inquiry report says the intelligence used to justify the war is now in doubt. Some of it was "seriously flawed", reports based on some intelligence sources have been withdrawn because they were unreliable. It concludes there were no significant stocks of weapons of mass destruction, although it is too early to say none will be found.

Why didn't the government's experts spot these mistakes?

Analysts in the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) in the Ministry of Defence did question the 45-minute claim because of the vagueness - warnings praised by Lord Butler. They also raised concerns about claims about Iraqi production of chemical agents.

But their bosses, who sat on the Joint Intelligence Committee but were not intelligence specialists, agreed the DIS experts should not see intelligence which came in during the latter stages of the dossier's drafting and which MI6 said overrode their concerns.

That late intelligence is now thought to have been unreliable, and Lord Butler says it was a mistake not to have allowed the expert analysts to assess its quality in the first place.

What about the way it was presented to Parliament and the public?

There is strong criticism of the government's dossier, put together by the Joint Intelligence Committee under the chairmanship of John Scarlett, on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It left out key warnings about the limitations of intelligence and gave the impression the information was "firmer and fuller" than it really was.

Lord Butler also says the claim that Iraq could use weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes should never have been published without explaining what it referred to. But he stressed there was no deliberate distortion and says there was no evidence the inquiry had seen to suggest the government had not acted in good faith.

So Lord Butler explains how all these mistakes happened?

He points to some of the procedural problems behind them but apportions no blame, saying there were "collective" mistakes.

So we are still in the dark about what really happened?

Not exactly. The evidence to the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly does give some clues about how the language of the dossier was hardened.

The week before the dossier's publication, Downing Street media chief Alastair Campbell sent a memo to Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett.

It proposed 15 changes, including pointing out that the language about the 45 minutes claim was weaker in the main text than in the summary.

At about the same time Mr Scarlett received Defence Intelligence Staff experts' view that the way the 45 minute claim was described in the summary should be changed to match the more cautious wording in the text.

Mr Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, changed the wording of the claim in the text to match that of the summary.

The Hutton inquiry also revealed how No 10 chief of staff Jonathan Powell suggested changes.

A week before the dossier was released, for example, he was worried the draft document said Saddam Hussein was prepared to use chemical weapons if his regime was under threat.

That information could support the argument that military action could create a threat from Iraq, he argued. But Mr Powell also stressed the dossier should not give the impression there was an imminent threat.

There was also a "last (!) call" two weeks before the dossier's publication for any more intelligence the agencies had, with No 10 keen to make the document "as strong as possible within the bounds of available intelligence".

Lord Hutton said Downing Street had put no undue pressure on Mr Scarlett, although he might have been subconsciously influenced to make the wording stronger than normal intelligence assessments.

What were the differences between intelligence assessments and the dossier?

JIC assessments

We have little intelligence on Iraq's CBW [chemical and biological weapons] doctrine, and know little about Iraq's CBW work since late 1998
21 August 2002

Government dossier

The nature of Saddam's regime makes Iraq a difficult target for the intelligence services... Taken together with what is already know from other sources, this intelligence builds our understanding of Iraq's capabilities and adds significantly to the analysis already in the public domain

Intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missile programmes is sporadic and patchy
15 March 2002
What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons
Tony Blair's foreword

Iraq has a chemical and biological weapons capability and is prepared to use it
9 September 2002
It [the intelligence] shows that he does not regard them only as weapons of last resort

Intelligence indicates that Saddam has identified Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Israel and Kuwait as targets. Turkey could also be at risk
9 September 2002
Iraq possesses extended-range versions of the SCUD ballistic missile in breach of UNSCR 687 which are capable of reaching Cyprus, Eastern Turkey, Tehran and Israel

Iraq is also developing short-range systems Al Samoud/Ababil 100 ballistic missiles (range 150kms plus). One intelligence report suggests that Iraq has "lost" the capability to develop warheads capable of effectively disseminating chemical and biological agent and that it would take six months to overcome the "technical difficulties". However, both these missile systems are currently being deployed with military units and an emergency operational capability with conventional warheads is probably available.
9 September 2002
Al Samoud/Ababil 100 ballistic missiles (range 150kms plus): it is unclear if chemical and biological warheads have been developed for these systems, but given the Iraqi experience on other missile systems, we judge that Iraq has the technical expertise for doing so.




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