Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government, also known as the September Dossier, was a document published by the British government on 24 September 2002 on the same day of a recall of Parliament to discuss the contents of the document.The paper was part of an ongoing investigation by the government into weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, which ultimately led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It contained a number of allegations according to which Iraq also possessed WMD, including chemical weapons and biological weapons. The dossier even alleged that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons programme. Without exception, all of the allegations included within the September Dossier have been since proven to be false, as shown by the Iraq Survey Group.
The much-anticipated document was based on reports made by the Joint Intelligence Committee, part of the British Intelligence 'machinery'. Most of the evidence was uncredited, ostensibly to protect sources. On publication, serious press comment was generally critical of the dossier for tameness and for the seeming lack of any genuinely new evidence. Those politically opposed to military action against Iraq generally agreed that the dossier was unremarkable, with Menzies Campbell observing in the House of Commons that:
We can also agree that [Saddam Hussein] most certainly has chemical and biological weapons and is working towards a nuclear capability. The dossier contains confirmation of information that we either knew or most certainly should have been willing to assume.
However, two sections later became the centre of fierce debate: the allegation that Iraq had sought "significant quantities of uranium from Africa", and the claim in the foreword to the document written by British Prime Minister Tony Blair that "The document discloses that his military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them."
Britain's biggest selling popular daily newspaper, The Sun , subsequently carried the headline "Brits 45mins from doom",while the Daily Star reported "Mad Saddam ready to attack: 45 minutes from a chemical war", helping to create the impression among the British public that Iraq was a threat to Britain.
Major General Michael Laurie, one of those involved in producing the dossier wrote to the Chilcot Inquiry in 2011 saying "the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care."On 26 June 2011, The Observer reported on a memo from John Scarlett to Blair's foreign affairs adviser, released under the Freedom of Information Act, which referred to "the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional". The memo has been described as one of the most significant documents on the September dossier yet published as it is considered a proposal to mislead the public.
The claim that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium from Africa was repeated in US President George W. Bush's January 2003 State of the Union Address. The controversial 16 words used by President Bush on 28 January 2003 were:
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
In March 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), when it finally obtained the documents referred to by United States Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations Security Council alleging transactions between Niger and Iraq, concluded that they were obvious fakes.
Subsequently, CIA director George Tenet stated that the remarks should not have been included in the US President's speech. This followed a remark by US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, saying that the presence of the line in the speech showed that it had been authorised by the CIA.
In July, Tony Blair testified to the House of Commons Liaison Committee that the evidence the government had regarding Iraq's dealings with Niger came from a separate source to the fraudulent documents. Ever since Powell's presentation, critics argued that had the US and UK intelligence services fully cooperated with United Nations weapons inspectors, it could have been found out whether the claims were truthful.
The same month, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee (which was investigating the veracity of the claims in the dossier) that the statement in the dossier rested on separate evidence which was still under review, and that this specific intelligence had not been shared with the CIA. In written evidence to the same committee, however, Straw further disclosed that the intelligence information upon which the British government had relied was shared separately with the IAEA by a foreign government shortly before their report of 7 March 2003.This was further confirmed in a Parliamentary answer to Lynne Jones MP. Lynne Jones subsequently contacted the IAEA to question whether a third party had discussed or shared separate intelligence with them and, if so, what assessment they made of it. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky responded to Jones on 25 May 2004:
I can confirm to you that we have received information from a number of member states regarding the allegation that Iraq sought to acquire uranium from Niger. However, we have learned nothing which would cause us to change the conclusion we reported to the United Nations Security Council on March 7, 2003 with regards to the documents assessed to be forgeries and have not received any information that would appear to be based on anything other than those documents.
The Foreign Affairs Select Committee judged that the British government had been wrong to state in an unqualified manner something that had not been established beyond doubt:
We conclude that it is very odd indeed that the Government asserts that it was not relying on the evidence which has since been shown to have been forged, but that eight months later it is still reviewing the other evidence. The assertion "…that Iraq sought the supply of significant amounts of uranium from Africa …" should have been qualified to reflect the uncertainty.
The privately Blair-appointed Butler Review, whose own report was issued after the aforementioned public investigation, concluded that the report Saddam's government was seeking uranium in Africa appeared credible:
a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.
b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger's exports, the intelligence was credible.
c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to having sought, uranium, and the British Government did not claim this.
d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.
The Butler Review also made a specific conclusion on President Bush's 16 words: "By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that: 'The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.' was well-founded."
The 45 minute claim lies at the centre of a row between Downing Street and the BBC. On 29 May 2003, BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan filed a report for BBC Radio 4's Today programme in which he stated that an unnamed source – a senior British official – had told him that the September Dossier had been "sexed up", and that the intelligence agencies were concerned about some "dubious" information contained within it – specifically the claim that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order to use them.
On 1 June, Gilligan expanded upon that claim in The Mail on Sunday newspaper, stating that the government's director of communications, Alastair Campbell, had been responsible for the insertion of the 45-minute claim, against the wishes of the intelligence agencies. Gilligan subsequently gave evidence before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, as did Campbell, who denied ordering the inclusion of the claim, and demanded an apology from the BBC. He subsequently backed this demand in writing.
The BBC refused to apologise, and stood by Gilligan's story. Campbell responded angrily, with an appearance on Channel 4 News .
On 7 July, the Select Committee published a report which cleared Campbell, albeit on the casting vote of the chairman. In the report, the committee stated that the 45-minute claim had been given "undue prominence".
On 15 September, MI6 head Richard Dearlove told the Hutton Inquiry that the claim related to battlefield WMD rather than weapons of mass destruction of a larger range than just battlefield.On the same day, Tony Cragg, the retired deputy chief of defence intelligence, admitted there were memos from two members of DIS objecting that parts of the dossier, including the 45-minute claim, was "far too strong" or "over-egged".
On 28 January 2004, the Hutton Inquiry released its report, which among other things concluded that:
Information surfacing in late 2009 initially appeared to suggest that the source of the 45 minute claim was in fact a taxi driver "on the Iraqi-Jordanian border, who had remembered an overheard conversation in the back of his cab a full two years earlier".Whether or not the taxi driver was the source of the 45-minute claim or instead "something about missiles" remains an open question.
It is also claimed by Adam Holloway MP that "When the information was acquired by MI6, a footnote was written on the page of an intelligence report sent to No 10 stating that the claim was 'verifiably inaccurate'."
The following day, 30 May 2003, the Ministry of Defence claimed that one of its officials (later named as Dr. David Kelly) had come forward, admitting to having discussed the matter of Iraq's weapons with Gilligan on 22 May. The BBC responded by saying that Kelly differed from Gilligan's key source in "important ways". Kelly was subsequently called before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee whose conclusion was that Kelly was being used as a scapegoat and that he had not been Gilligan's key mole.
On 17 July, Gilligan gave evidence to a private session of the Select Committee, and was subsequently criticised for not naming his source, and for changing his story. The BBC continued to stand by him.
On the same day, Kelly left his home for an area of woodland and was later found dead with his left wrist slit, apparently having committed suicide.
On 20 July, Richard Sambrook, director of news at the BBC, revealed that Kelly was indeed the key source for Gilligan's report, and that the BBC had not said so before so as to protect Kelly. The BBC stressed that Gilligan's reporting accurately reflected Kelly's comments, implying that Kelly had not been entirely truthful with the Select Committee. An inquest into the cause of the death was begun, but was suspended by Lord Falconer.The BBC committed to assisting fully with the then forthcoming Hutton Inquiry into Kelly's death.
On 28 January 2004, the Hutton Inquiry published its report. With regard to the death of Dr. Kelly:
Dissatisfied with the results of the Hutton Inquiry, in 2010 experts called for the suspended inquest to be reopened.
Iraq actively researched and later employed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from 1962 to 1991, when it destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile and halted its biological and nuclear weapon programs as required by the United Nations Security Council. The fifth President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was internationally condemned for his use of chemical weapons during the 1980s campaign against Iranian and Kurdish civilians during and after the Iran–Iraq War. In the 1980s, Saddam pursued an extensive biological weapons program and a nuclear weapons program, though no nuclear bomb was built. After the Persian Gulf War (1990–1991), the United Nations located and destroyed large quantities of Iraqi chemical weapons and related equipment and materials; Iraq ceased its chemical, biological and nuclear programs.
Geoffrey William "Geoff" Hoon is a British Labour politician who served as the Member of Parliament for Ashfield from 1992 to 2010. He is a former Defence Secretary, Transport Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons and Government Chief Whip.
David Christopher Kelly was a Welsh scientist and authority on biological warfare, employed by the British Ministry of Defence, and formerly a weapons inspector with the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq. He came to public attention in July 2003 when an unauthorised discussion he had off the record with BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan about the UK Government's dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was cited by Gilligan and led to a major controversy. Kelly's name became known to the media as Gilligan's source and he was called to appear on 15 July before a parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee investigating the issues Gilligan had reported. Kelly was questioned aggressively about his actions. He was found dead two days later.
Iraq – Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation was a 2003 briefing document for the British prime minister Tony Blair's Labour Party government. It was issued to journalists on 3 February 2003 by Alastair Campbell, Blair's Director of Communications and Strategy, and concerned Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. Together with the earlier September Dossier, these documents were ultimately used by the government to justify its involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The Hutton Inquiry was a 2003 judicial inquiry in the UK chaired by Lord Hutton, who was appointed by the Labour government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, a biological warfare expert and former UN weapons inspector in Iraq.
Ayad Allawi is an Iraqi politician. He served as Vice President of Iraq from 2014 to 2015, interim Prime Minister of Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and was the President of the Governing Council of Iraq in 2003. He served as Vice President again, from 2016 to 2018.
Andrew Paul Gilligan is a British policy adviser and journalist, currently transport adviser to the Prime Minister. Until July 2019 he was senior correspondent of The Sunday Times and had also served as head of the Capital City Foundation at Policy Exchange. Between 2013 and 2016 he also worked as cycling commissioner for London. He is best known for a 2003 report on BBC Radio 4's The Today Programme in which he described a British government briefing paper on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction as 'sexed up'.
Susan Janet Watts is a science journalist. She was science editor of the BBC's Newsnight programme, from January 1995 to November 2013.
Sir John McLeod Scarlett is a retired British senior intelligence officer. He was Chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 2004 to 2009. Prior to this appointment, he had chaired the Cabinet Office Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).
Operation Rockingham was the codeword for UK involvement in inspections in Iraq following the war over Kuwait in 1990–91. Early in 1991 the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) was established to oversee the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Use of the codeword was referred to in the annual British defence policy white paper "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1991" where at page 28 it states "The United Kingdom is playing a full part in the work of the Special Commission; our involvement is known as Operation ROCKINGHAM." The activities carried out by the UK as part of Rockingham were detailed in the following white paper.
Sexed up refers to making something more sexually attractive. Since 2003 it has been used in the sense of making something more attractive than it really is by selective presentation; a modern update to the phrase "hyped up". One variant of "sexed up" is "sex it up". The implication is that no actual lying is taking place, but that spin is being placed on certain parts of the message.
The Niger uranium forgeries were forged documents initially released in 2001 by SISMI, which seem to depict an attempt made by Saddam Hussein in Iraq to purchase yellowcake uranium powder from Niger during the Iraq disarmament crisis. On the basis of these documents and other indicators, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom asserted that Iraq violated United Nations sanctions against Iraq by attempting to procure nuclear material for the purpose of creating weapons of mass destruction.
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, known by the Defense Intelligence Agency cryptonym "Curveball", is a German citizen who defected from Iraq in 1999, claiming that he had worked as a chemical engineer at a plant that manufactured mobile biological weapon laboratories as part of an Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program. Alwan's allegations were subsequently shown to be false by the Iraq Survey Group's final report published in 2004.
A dispute exists over the legitimacy of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The debate centers around the question whether the invasion was an unprovoked assault on an independent country that may have breached international law, or if the United Nations Security Council authorized the invasion. Those arguing for its legitimacy often point to Congressional Joint Resolution 114 and UN Security Council resolutions, such as Resolution 1441 and Resolution 678. Those arguing against its legitimacy also cite some of the same sources, stating they do not actually permit war but instead lay out conditions that must be met before war can be declared. Furthermore, the Security Council may only authorise the use of force against an "aggressor" in the interests of preserving peace, whereas the 2003 invasion of Iraq was not provoked by any aggressive military action.
WMD conjecture in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq concerns the immediate reactions and consequences to the failure by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group (ISG) to find the alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction during and after 2003 invasion of Iraq. The United States effectively terminated the search effort for unconventional weaponry in January 2005, and the Iraq Intelligence Commission concluded that the judgements of the U.S. intelligence community about the continued existence of weapons of mass destruction and an associated military program were wrong. The official findings by the CIA in October 2004 were that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "did not possess stockpiles of illicit weapons at the time of the U.S. invasion in March 2003 and had not begun any program to produce them."
The Iraq Inquiry was a British public inquiry into the nation's role in the Iraq War. The inquiry was announced in 2009 by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and published in 2016 with a public statement by Chilcot.
The Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, widely known as the Butler Review after its chairman Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell, was announced on 3 February 2004 by the British Government and published on 4 July 2004. It examined the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction which played a key part in the Government's decision to invade Iraq in 2003. A similar Iraq Intelligence Commission was set up in the United States. Despite the apparent certainty of both governments prior to the war that Iraq possessed such weapons, no such illegal weapons or programs were found by the Iraq Survey Group.
Rihab Rashid Taha al-Azawi is an Iraqi microbiologist, dubbed Dr Germ by United Nations weapons inspectors, who worked in Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program. A 1999 report commissioned by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) named her as one of the world's most dangerous women. Dr Taha admitted producing germ warfare agents but said they had been destroyed.
Brian Francis Gill Jones was a UK metallurgist who worked as an intelligence analyst, was skeptical of claims of Iraqi WMD and gave evidence concerning the justification for the Iraq war.
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