Vital intelligence used to justify Iraq invasion ten years ago was based on ‘fabrication’, a media report has claimed, citing that the Central Intelligence Agency and MI6 were told that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.
Two senior Iraqi politicians told Western intelligence that Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the US-led invasion in 2003 but their warnings were ignored and then not reported to the subsequent Butler inquiry, a BBC Panorama documentary has claimed
While information from highly placed Iraqis was dismissed as unimportant if it indicated that Hussein did not have the WMD, tip offs from low-ranking Iraqis were eagerly lapped up if they reinforced what George W Bush and Tony Blair wanted to hear, it claimed.
Lord Butler, who conducted the 2004 inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the war, told the programme-makers that he later discovered a previously overlooked report which revealed that an MI6 officer had a meeting in Jordan with one of Iraq's most senior intelligence officers, Tahir Habbush al-Tikriti.
Habbush told MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service, that there were no WMD left in Iraq. "We discovered that it was part of the paperwork we got, after the event," Lord Butler was quoted by the Independent as saying in the documentary.
"This was something which I think our review did miss. But when we asked about it, we were told that it wasn't a very significant fact, because SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) discounted it as something designed by Saddam to mislead," Butler said.
Several months before the war, the CIA's Paris station made contact through an intermediary with Iraq's Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri. Bill Murray, head of the CIA in Paris, reported to the CIA headquarters that Iraq held ‘virtually nothing’ in the way of WMD. That information was also passed to British intelligence.
"They were not happy," Murray said in the documentary. "They just didn't believe it. There was a consistent effort to find intelligence that supported pre-conceived positions," he said.
Yet the CIA and the MI6 were prepared to believe sources like the informant Curveball, whose real name was Rafed al Janabi, a chemical engineer who fled from Iraq to Germany in 1999, and claimed that the seed factory in which he had worked was producing chemical and biological agents for mobile laboratories.
By the start of 2001, German intelligence officers had realised that at least part of his story was made up and stopped relying on him. MI6 also assessed that he was a ‘fabricator’. Interviewed by Panorama, Janabi admitted that he had made the story up.