So far, efforts to unravel why both British and American intelligence were so wrong about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have ignored one crucial fact: while governments on both sides of the Atlantic were getting the picture wrong, United Nations inspectors were getting it largely right.
President Bush’s February 11, 2004 speech on non-proliferation was a step in the right direction in pursuing a stronger, more effective and more international nonproliferation policy. Many of the initiatives, if implemented, will increase the ability of the United States and the international community to stem the spread of nuclear weapons. It remains to be seen, however, if the President’s strong words will lead to greater funding for and greater international cooperation by the United States on critical non-proliferation efforts.
<i>On the one year anniversary of secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council, we are re-posting Project Director Joseph Cirincione's analysis of the secretary's remarks at that time.<br> <br> </i>(Originally posted February 5, 2003) Secretary of State Colin Powell calmly detailed before the United Nations Security Council US evidence of Iraq's failure to comply fully with UN disarmament orders. While the secretary focused on Iraqi deception, most nations remained fixed on the threat. They did not hear any new evidence that the danger from Iraq was urgent or severe enough to justify the extreme step of authorizing an invasion and occupation of an Arab state.Within the Arab world, the editorial opinion of the<i> Jordan Times</i> was typical: the speech "did not amount to convincing evidence…that Iraq presents any real or imminent danger." The Times argues that the US charges "can only be answered by allowing the UN inspectors the time, resources and support neede to carry out their mandate."
In early January, my Carnegie Endowment colleagues and I released a report detailing systemic flaws in U.S. intelligence and decision-making regarding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq.
Beginning in mid-2002, however, the official statements of the threat shifted dramatically towards greater alarm regarding certainty of the threat and greater certainty as to the evidence. This shift does not appear to have been supported by new, concrete evidence from intelligence community reports-at least those now publicly available. These statements were picked up and amplified by congressional leaders, major media and some experts.
Prior to 2002, many national and international officials and experts believed that Iraq likely had research programs and some stores of hidden chemical or biological weapons and maintained interest in a program to develop nuclear weapons. The debate that began in 2002 was not over weapons, but over war. The issue was whether Iraq's capabilities and its failure to cooperate fully with UN inspections by adequately accounting for its activities posed such a severe threat as to require military invasion and occupation in early 2003.
Countries with a combination of a large land mass and a sizeable population tend to be chronically unstable politically and economically. Allowing their problems to fester, the case all too often in the past, is a source of continuing hardship to their citizens and neighbors alike. The international community needs to consider a new approach to the problems of these nations.
It's been a poorly kept secret for several years that Pakistan helped develop nuclear programs in Iran, North Korea and probably in Libya. For the United States, however, Pakistan's help in the war on terror has been more important than its peddling of nuclear technology to rogue states.
A groundbreaking report details what the U.S. and international intelligence communities understood about Iraq's weapons programs before the war and outlines policy reforms to improve threat assessments, deter transfer of WMD to terrorists, strengthen the UN weapons inspection process, and avoid politicization of the intelligence process.
Drawing useful lessons from experience begins with an accurate record of what happened. It is not too soon to begin this inquiry into the Iraq experience, because public confusion is widespread and revisionism has already begun. Some pundits now claim that the war was never about WMD but was undertaken to bring democracy to Iraq or the entire Middle East. Others say it was a response to 9/11 or was the necessary answer to a composite threat posed by Saddam Hussein's domestic evils, past aggressions, defiance of the United Nations, and desire for WMD. The administration has adjusted its public expectation of what Iraq will be found to have had from actual weapons and massive stockpiles of agent, to weapons programs, to "capabilities," and even to the "capability that Iraq sought" for weapons of mass destruction. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has called WMD merely "the one reason everyone could agree on," chosen for "bureaucratic reasons."