The Mystery of Iraq's "Weapons of Mass Destruction"

By Killgore, Andrew I. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 2004 | Go to article overview

The Mystery of Iraq's "Weapons of Mass Destruction"


Killgore, Andrew I., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Perhaps Greg Thielmann, retired Department of State officer, got it just right. For the past four years, until his recent retirement, Thielmann worked in the Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (BIR), which provides the secretary of state with intelligence analysis independent of other agencies. The May 30, 2003 New York Times quoted him as saying, "The al-Qaeda connection and nuclear weapons were the only two ways that you could link Iraq to an imminent security threat to the U.S., and the administration was grossly distorting the intelligence on both things."

Less than a month later, the BIR's Christian Westermann was quoted in the same paper's June 24 edition as saying that he had been pressured to tailor his analysis on Iraq to conform with the Bush administration's views (that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction). Westermann earlier had clashed with John Bolton, the neocon under secretary of state for arms control and international security, over Bolton's public assertions last year that Cuba had a biological weapons program.

According to the June 25, 2003 New York Times, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), jointly had said that the mysterious trailers found in Iraq were for making biological weapons. The BIR, however-which had not been consulted by CIA/DIA-advised that it was premature to conclude, as President George W. Bush had done, that the trailers were indeed producing biological weapons. One can infer from the fact that CIA/DIA did not consult BIR on a matter of this importance that the dynamic duo expected that BIR would not agree.

On a recent television program, David Kay, the former U.N. weapons inspector who recently resigned as the Bush administration's head hunter for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), described BIR employees as "only" analysts without on-the-ground experience.

It was the BIR, however, that got it right.

The Jan. 10, 2003 New York Times reported that Dr. Mohamed Elbaradei, head of the U.N.'s regulatory International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), disagreed with President Bush when the latter cited Iraq's attempts to buy special aluminum tubes as proof that Baghdad was "seeking...nuclear bombs." Elbaradei indicated that he thought Iraq's claim that it sought the tubes to make rockets was credible.

It would seem, therefore, that Dr. Kay's recent testimony before Congress that all intelligence services "got it wrong probably" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was incorrect. …

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