A February 15, 2011 interview “Guardian” with Iraqi emigrant Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi has decisively dispelled all of the myths surrounding this story, which was extremely dubious in every respect from the very beginning. Al-Janabi fled to Germany in the mid-1990s and played an important role in justifying the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies.
The defector has formally acknowledged that he fed German intelligence false information about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). He ostensibly provided this disinformation with the good intention of freeing the people of Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial and bloody regime. The media has also provided possible reasons for his actions that are more mundane: money and his desire to obtain political asylum in Germany, which he received on March 13, 2000.
Al-Janabi hastily concocted information about mobile bacteriological warfare stations and secret plants for producing chemical and biological weapons for officials of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND. They later became the key evidence for WMD in Iraq that former US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented at a special session of the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003. It later emerged that al-Janabi had not been involved in WMD production, and that by then Iraq had no WMD facilities.
Apparently, al-Janabi was not alone in telling lies; Western intelligence agencies deliberately chose similar “valuable intelligence sources” on Iraq to fabricate reports for the leaders of their countries and the UN prior to the military operation. The sources and their information were not properly verified, and the intelligence services’ actions resembled a show whose ending was already known. The main purpose of these actions by the intelligence community was to somehow justify the Western coalition’s invasion of Iraq to the world.
For its part, the British government prepared a dossier about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq based on information received from an Iraqi taxi driver, according to The Times. The Times received this information from a conservative MP, Adam Holloway. The taxi driver had supposedly overheard a conversation between two high-ranking Iraqi officers in the backseat of his vehicle. The taxi driver shared that information with a Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) source. It later formed part of the dossier in a British government report. The agent had transmitted the information with a remark saying “may not be credible.” According to Holloway the Cabinet of Ministers ignored the caveat. The Iraqi dossier was published in London in September 2002 and was used to justify Britain’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It became known only in late November 2009 that 10 days before the invasion of Iraq British Prime Minister Tony Blair received reliable intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have immediate access to weapons of mass destruction. Sir William Ehrman, the British Foreign Office’s director general for British defense and intelligence at the time, made that statement at public inquiries in London into the reasons for the Iraq war.
In 2003, Western media published information that Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) that was opposed to Saddam Hussein and funded by the Americans, had been accused of deliberately pushing the United States to go to war in Iraq. INC agents supposedly fed the Pentagon and the State Department false information about Baghdad’s WMD development programs and about Saddam Hussein’s cooperation with Islamist terrorist groups.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, President George Bush included these assertions in his State of the Union Address, and Secretary of State Colin Powell presented them in his speech to the UN Security Council. The US government was subsequently forced to acknowledge that its information, including data from technical intelligence means, turned out to be greatly exaggerated or simply fabricated.
We know that Hussein’s attempts to develop nuclear weapons collapsed in 1981 when the Israeli Air Force bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor, which had been built with the assistance of French experts. It was estimated that the reactor would have been capable of producing 40-50 kg of weapons-grade plutonium, enough to manufacture several atomic bombs. But the Israelis destroyed the reactor completely, leaving it beyond repair.
Hussein succeeded in producing a quantity of chemical weapons (mustard, sarin, tabun and VX) with the aid of foreign specialists using components obtained primarily from Europe (The Netherlands). On March 16-17, 1988, the Iraqi Air Force bombed the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq with chemical weapons. It was an act of intimidation against the rebellious Kurds and killed several thousand people, primarily civilians, women, old people and children. In the years following, fearing condemnation by the international community, Hussein destroyed all chemical weapons and the means of producing it.
Hussein did not initiate a program to produce bacteriological or biological weapons, given their nature as a double-edged sword and the danger of harming his own forces. For a long time, however, the dictator did not stop the rumors that he had certain types of WMD, and it is possible that he spread them intentionally to deter possible foreign aggression (by his probable enemy, Israel). So at one time there were elements of a bluff by Iraq’s leadership and intelligence services, until the situation around Saddam Hussein became menacing. Baghdad then began closely cooperating with the IAEA commission, allowed foreign inspectors to visit his military facilities and virtually proved that Iraq had no WMD.
The IAEA Director General and the chairman of the UN Special Commission on Iraqi disarmament repeatedly reported at the time that there was no evidence that Iraq still possessed weapons of mass destruction. That is why the UN Security Council refused to adopt a resolution sanctioning the use of military force against Iraq.
Relying on the conclusions of authoritative international experts, Russia was also categorically opposed to solving the problem by military means and attempted until the last moment to prevent an armed conflict between the United States and its allies and Saddam Hussein. “For us, the problem with starting a war in Iraq was obvious: there were no facts supporting the presence of WMD in the country even before combat operations began,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said recently.
However, what happened, happened. Western coalition forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, and the Hussein regime was overthrown relatively quickly. Then a protracted bloody war was fought for almost 8 years with ragtag armed groups and a terrorist underground. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis perished or were wounded, over 5000 Western coalition soldiers were killed, and cities’ infrastructure and residential areas of were destroyed. Chaos and violence raged in the country for a long time. Iraq’s new authorities are still ineffective; it took 10 months after the March 2010 parliamentary elections before a new government was formed. The security ministries and law enforcement agencies are unable to keep the peace without help. The country is slowly returning to peaceful life and is building a civil society; the threat that the country will split along ethnic and religious lines remains; new, large-scale flare-ups of violence and even civil war are still a possibility.
The most thorough searches for WMD in Iraq throughout the occupation by Western forces yielded no results. Today, we can be sure that the United States and its allies engaged in wishful thinking to somehow justify the need for their military operation in Iraq. Now, even former and current leaders of Western countries and their intelligence agencies have been forced to admit their mistakes. John Scarlett, the chief of Britain’s foreign intelligence service, who headed the country’s Joint Intelligence Committee from 2000 January 2, 2004, said that Iraq had kept its weapons of mass destruction disassembled for a long time in order to conceal their existence from the international community. He confirmed that Iraq had completely destroyed its chemical weapons long before coalition forces invaded in 2003.
That was also confirmed in the report on the CIA survey to check for possible production of WMD in Iraq. The final report of the commission headed by Charles Duelfler, which is published on the CIA’s website, said that Saddam Hussein’s regime was unable to restore its WMD production program after 1991; and despite the fact that a small quantity of chemical munitions were found, the commission concluded that Iraq had destroyed its stockpile of unreported chemical weapons as early as 1991.
Facts about the careless work by Western intelligence agencies and the entire mechanism for making important government decisions on the use of military force in a foreign country has become the subject of the parliamentary inquiries and government commissions in the United States, Great Britain and Germany; and they have provoked the just indignation of the entire international community. Attempts by the United States alone or in concert with its Western allies to play the role of “world policemen” and “arbiters” in domestic and international disputes and conflicts are counterproductive and present a danger to international and regional security. It has become increasingly clear that only the United Nations can sanction international peacekeeping operations and execute military actions to protect the rights and freedoms of a population.
Stanislav Mikhaylovich Ivanov holds a Candidate of Science (History) Degree and is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Security of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. This article was written expressly for New Eastern Outlook.