LORD BUTLER: REVIEW OF INTELLIGENCE ON WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION IN IRAQ

PRESS CONFERENCE: OPENING STATEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN, THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE LORD BUTLER OF BROCKWELL WEDNESDAY, 14 JULY 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Thank you for coming to this press conference on the Report of the Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction which I have chaired and which the Government has published today. May I introduce my colleagues …

2. We were appointed as a Committee of Privy Counsellors on 3 February and  were asked to report by the Parliamentary Summer Recess which we have  managed to do. This is a period of just under 6 months. We were asked to  follow, in terms of procedures, the precedent of the Falkland Islands Review  under Lord Franks in 1982. That Review was completed in an almost identical  period. . . .

15. Now Iraq. We have two chapters on Iraq – one dealing with the role of  intelligence in the period leading up to the Iraq war and the second with specific  issues which have been the subject of public attention.

16. In the general chapter on Iraq we start from the end of the first Gulf war  and look at intelligence between then and the departure of the UN inspectors in  1998. We do so in order to examine how that intelligence influenced the  assessments in the later period and our conclusions are set out in paras 207-9.

17. On the period up to 1998 we draw four main conclusions – first of effective  work carried out by IAEA and UNSCOM, which was however not complete  because of inability to account for all Iraq’s previously estimated stocks.  Secondly, a progressive reduction in JIC [Joint  Intelligence Committee] estimates of Iraq’s capabilities up to 1994/95. Thirdly, following the defection of Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law,  Hussein Kamil, which prompted Iraqi declarations of programmes previously  concealed, growing suspicions between 1995 and 1998 of what Iraq might be  continuing to conceal. And fourthly more assured JIC assessments of Iraq’s  nuclear capabilities than of its chemical and biological capabilities. The latter  are, of course, easier to conceal.

18. In the period 1998-2002, the weapons inspectors were no longer in Iraq  and intelligence sources were sparse, particularly on Iraq’s chemical and  biological weapons programmes. Following the inspectors’ departure, some of  Iraq’s suspected remaining facilities were attacked through the bombing  operation, Desert Fox. The policy was one of containment of Saddam, against a  background of continuing suspicion and fears on the part of the Government that  the international will to retain sanctions was weakening [paras 213-217].

19. There was limited intelligence suggesting Iraqi attempts to expand its  missile programme, to lay the foundations of a revived nuclear programme, and  to develop facilities which could be used for chemical and biological  programmes. . . .

20. Then 9/11 happened, followed by coalition action in Afghanistan,  President Bush’s axis of evil speech, and growing evidence of United States  focus on Iraq. This led to reassessment of the British Government’s policy  towards Iraq in early 2002 and to the conclusion that stronger action (not  necessarily military action) needed to be taken to enforce Iraqi disarmament  [paras 259-269].

21. This conclusion was not based on any new development in the  intelligence picture on Iraq [paras 284-285]. At that stage there was no recent  intelligence that by itself would have given rise to a conclusion that Iraq was of  more immediate concern than the activities of some other countries. The British  Government, as well as being influenced by the concerns of the US Government,  saw a need for immediate action on Iraq because of the wider historical and  international context, especially Iraq’s perceived continuing challenge to the  authority of the United Nations. The breach of UN Resolutions also provided a  basis for action but, if it were to take the form of offensive military action, it was  recognised, first, that the United Nations Security Council would need to be  convinced that Iraq was in breach of its obligations; second, that such proof  would need to be incontrovertible and of large-scale activity; and, third, that the  intelligence then available was insufficiently robust to meet that criterion. This  was in March 2002. . . .

32. The Report then covers a number of specific issues in relation to  intelligence on Iraq on which our conclusions can be summed up as follows:

-The JIC found no evidence of co-operation between the Iraqi regime and

Al Qaida [para 484].

-Assessments that Iraq sought uranium from Africa were well-founded on

intelligence [para 503].

-The report that Saddam could deploy chemical and biological weapons within  45 minutes, in the form in which it appeared in the JIC assessment and then  in the Government dossier, was unclear and the JIC should not have included  it in this form. Since the war the validity of the reporting chain which  produced this report has become doubtful [para 511].

-Mobile laboratories have been found in Iraq but do not match the ones in the  intelligence reports which were relied on for evidence of Iraq’s production of  biological agent. Moreover, we now know the one described by the source  would not have been capable of producing stocks of such agent [para 530].

-The aluminium tubes which Iraq sought to acquire were almost certainly  intended for rockets rather than evidence of an attempt to re-constitute a  nuclear programme. Nevertheless, the JIC were right to take seriously the  possibility of their nuclear use [para 545].

-The JIC retained in its assessments for longer than the current evidence  justified references to Iraq’s possible possession of plague agent [paras 562-565].

-The specific concerns raised by Dr Brian Jones and his staff about the  September 2002 dossier were justified and the intelligence report on which  his seniors relied in overruling them should have been shown to the experts  [paras 570, 572, 576-577].

-We found no evidence that a motive of the British Government in initiating military action was security of oil supplies [para 579]. . . .