US ignored work of U.N. arms
By Dafna Linzer
The Washington Post
April 4, 2005
WASHINGTON — Of all the claims U.S. intelligence made
about Iraq's arsenal in the fall and winter of 2002, it was a
handful of new charges that seemed the most significant: secret
purchases of uranium from Africa, biological weapons being made
in mobile laboratories and pilotless planes that could disperse
anthrax or sarin gas above U.S. cities.
By the time President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm
Saddam Hussein of the deadly weapons he was allegedly trying to
build, every piece of fresh evidence had been tested — and
disproved — by U.N. inspectors, according to a report
commissioned by the president and released Thursday.
The work of the inspectors, who had extraordinary access
during their three months in Iraq between November 2002 and March
2003, was routinely dismissed by the Bush administration and the
intelligence community before the war, according to the
commission led by former Sen. Charles Robb, D-Va., and retired
appellate court judge Laurence Silberman.
But the commission's findings, including a key judgment that
U.S. intelligence knows "disturbingly little" about nuclear
programs in Iran and North Korea, are leading to calls for
greater reliance on U.N. inspectors to test intelligence where
the United States has little or no access.
"U.N. inspectors are boots on the ground," said David
Albright, a nuclear specialist who accompanied the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Iraq in the mid-1990s.
Albright and others think the IAEA should be given greater
access in Iran, and should be returned to North Korea. It would
be up to the agency's board, which includes the United States, to
authorize increased powers.
The Bush administration tussled with inspectors before the
Iraq war and maintains a hostile relationship with the IAEA,
whose director, Mohamed ElBaradei, the United States is trying to
replace this year. The administration also wants to shut down a
U.N. inspection regime led by Hans Blix that was set up to
investigate biological, chemical and missile programs in
During more than two years of investigations in Iran, the IAEA
has "been critical in uncovering their secret activities so we
know the scope and the status of the nuclear programs and the
problems," said Albright, who has exposed unknown nuclear sites
in Iran and has followed the IAEA's work there.
"There is a tremendous amount of detail that the intelligence
community didn't have prior to the IAEA going in and intensifying
The White House has not publicly presented intelligence to
support its assertion that Iran has a nuclear-weapons program, as
it did with Iraq. Instead, it routinely points to the IAEA
investigation, Iran's large oil reserves and the secrecy that
surrounded Iran's nuclear program for nearly two decades.
The IAEA has not found evidence that Iran is using its
nuclear-energy program as a cover for bomb building, as the
administration claims. But those findings have been dismissed by
some members of the administration.
John Bolton, nominated to be the next U.S. ambassador to the
United Nations, has called the findings "simply impossible to
Months before U.S. troops attacked Iraq in March 2003, the
IAEA challenged every piece of evidence the Bush administration
offered to support claims of a nuclear program there, according
to the commission.
In January, IAEA inspectors discovered that documents showing
Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger were forged. But the CIA
chose to stick to the claim for another six months.
Two years earlier, the IAEA disputed CIA claims that Iraq was
trying to buy black-market aluminum tubes for a nuclear program.
The IAEA assessment, which turned out to be accurate, was first
shared with U.S. intelligence in July 2001.
Blix's U.N. group tested evidence supplied by an Iraqi
defector, whose tales of mobile bioweapons laboratories turned
out to be fabrications, according to the report.
U.N. inspectors also determined before the war that CIA claims
about a fleet of pilotless Iraqi planes were incorrect. The
unmanned aerial vehicles did not have the capability to deliver
chemical or biological weapons and probably were designed for
The Bush administration has prevented the IAEA from returning
to Iraq since the invasion.
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