The Iraq Dossier
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RAY SUAREZ: And joining me now to assess the significance of the Iraq dossier, and the information it contains, we’re joined by David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a policy think tank in Washington. He’s a former nuclear inspector under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the lead group on such inspections.
Judith Yaphe, who worked in the Directorate of Intelligence for 20 years in the Office of Near Eastern and Central Asian Analysis. She’s now a senior research fellow at the National Defense University in Washington.
And retired Colonel Patrick Lang, a former defense intelligence agency officer who covered the Middle East from 1985 to 1992.
Well let me start by getting from you all some overall impressions of document, its findings and taken as a whole the case it makes. David Albright?
DAVID ALBRIGHT: I think it’s very useful information. And it’s certainly from my point of view long overdue. But I think the dossier goes through the WMD program systematically and I think gives a good impression of the threat. I think that in Blair’s statement, however, I think he left out that the dossier does not view the nuclear threat nearly as direly as the Bush Administration.
RAY SUAREZ: Patrick Lang.
PATRICK LANG: Well, I think you have to consider what kind of document this is exactly. This is not a legal brief. It is in fact an intelligence estimate, which is being used for grander political reasons here. And in an intelligence estimate you are governed by the probabilities of what might be in the light of what is always incomplete evidence. So I heard some criticism today that this document can be looked at not as really proving the case, but I think that’s beside the point because it isn’t that kind of document.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, for those of us that haven’t written one and haven’t read that many, are they conservative in their nature, that is putting only things you know for sure, or throwing out a lot of things that you have been finding, some of which have a high degree of verifiability and some that have a lower degree?
PATRICK LANG: All of estimates that I have worked on in my life have tended toward the conservative side of looking at things. If things seem to not fit a pattern of greater probability so that you feel justified in guiding the government’s action by the conclusions you reach they would generally not include that evidence. But it is probabilities — not proving something beyond a reasonable doubt – that governs these documents.
RAY SUAREZ: Judith Yaphe.
JUDITH YAPHE: Well, I’ll take a slightly different tack because I wrote a lot of estimates in my career and they are not pretty things to write. At their best an intelligence estimate or finding should give you a sense of what the threat is absent any policy prescription. It should tell you define the problem, tell you what is behind that, what are the key issues and then suggest perhaps what might happen if you should follow certain courses of action but basically it’s to get the agreement of the community.
Now the problem with that is some administrations are comfortable with consensus meaning that they only want the one view. They don’t want to hear where there’s differences of opinion. Other administrations like a Team A/Team B approach or if say the State Department doesn’t agree with another agency that is feeding into the process, they can take a dissent.
RAY SUAREZ: What do you make of this one?
JUDITH YAPHE: This is not an estimate, in a sense. This is a white paper, which in a sense outlines here is a policy that that — here is what we think the problem is. Here is what we think Saddam is doing and that’s why we think we need to follow a certain kind of policy that lays out the evidence, much if which is based on either intelligence and/or open source material, much of which — nothing stays secret for very long anyway but much of which has been validated, verified by the press, by open sources.
So it lays that out and it says because of these reasons this is the course of action. Now the audience – it would be nice to convince the world at large but I don’t think you’re going to convince say the Europeans – I was going to say the Euros — or the neighbors. Those people you need to convince if you want to get their support.
RAY SUAREZ: Iraq’s neighbors?
JUDITH YAPHE: Moral support — I mean either Iraq’s neighbors — if you need logistic support to conduct an operation or moral support say from the Europeans or anybody else. These are basically internal use documents in the sense they are meant to convince a domestic audience. Now there they might but I think we tend to overplay the influence that documents like this have.
RAY SUAREZ: Was there anything new, Patrick Lang, or was it a lot of things, as Judith Yaphe suggests, that had already been covered in other places and this merely brought it altogether?
PATRICK LANG: No. I think it’s a compilation of the kinds of data she is talking about arranged so as to be as persuasive as possible in the absence of really complete information that — the two governments’ case. Basically the United States is clearly involved in this to some extent. And their case against Iraq is logical and people should accept it. Now I think for people who wish to believe this case it would be very easy to accept. For those who do not wish to believe it the missing bits of data will be sufficient to dismiss it.
RAY SUAREZ: You talked a little bit, Dave Albright, about the difference between the nuclear track and the biological and chemical parts of the report. Often they’re all lumped together under the same umbrella but here they are differentiated out, and to what effect?
DAVID ALBRIGHT: Oh, I think the case on the biological and chemical is much stronger. I think there’s a lot of uncertainty about what Iraq has accomplished on getting nuclear weapons. And I think what the information– in the nuclear section some of it is new — I would say to both the public add the inspectors about some of the procurements and that while those items didn’t go and they may not be linked to centrifuges in total they paint a picture that Iraq is trying to make progress on getting nuclear weapons. Now, where there’s a difference, I think, is how close are they? And I think the British view expressed in the document is that we have a lot more time than what the Bush administration says.
And I think the bottom line on the British position though is that the U.N. should get the inspectors back in, there should be a strengthened inspection program, and Iraq in a sense should be given one last chance. And if they don’t comply, then military force would be justified. And I also see that as a difference between the U.S. and British approaches – that there was no discussion in this document about preemptive military action and it didn’t seem that they were trying to build a case for preemptive military action but really for a very strong confrontation with Iraq through the Security Council.
RAY SUAREZ: Placing that date for a completed nuclear weapon further out than the United States does, is that a credible conclusion, first off, and how significant is it, in your view?
JUDITH YAPHE: Not being a nuclear scientist how would I know how to judge that? I think it’s probably credible. When people estimate it depends on what they get fissile material because I believe the scientists say they virtually have a device ready, if I’m correct. I may be wrong. I trust David for that.
But I think the point is — we did talk about the delivery system, which is in terms of their missiles. I found the British report very interesting, in effect saying that they were perfecting, they had made progress on longer range missiles — we know they successfully tested the Al Samoud two years ago, which has a 150 kilometer range. That’s allowed under the U.N. Security Council resolutions.
But to quote my favorite military commander, General Zinni, it doesn’t take long, it doesn’t take much to go from short range to long range. That is an important thing, and the other thing I found interesting in that document was the – I think they called it the usage – who approves? Who controls the decision making and who approves?
Because the documents don’t say it but it all points to a strongly centralized decision making progress, which we know from papers found after the Gulf War decisions were to be made in Baghdad unless and except you couldn’t get to Baghdad – you couldn’t get any – and then commanders in the field, first of all, had the — were given the authority to authorize attack and we also learned after the fact that the deterrence didn’t really work 100% as those who read James Baker’s book might believe, but they had armed missiles with CW – chemical weapons warheads, which were found dispersed later. So who do you pitch your message to? One of the things that comes out of not just these White papers, but I think statements by Secretary Rumsfeld — we have got to convince Iraqis not to want to use these things too.
RAY SUAREZ: Having looked at some of the conclusions, Patrick Lang, where does it lead you — to a support for an inspection regime? Today the Canadian government said that after looking over the dossier, they were more convinced that sending the inspectors back in was the right thing to do.
PATRICK LANG: Well, I think we have certainly arrived at a point in the politics of the world in this matter that it is inevitable now that we’ll have to function through the mechanism of the U.N. trying to sort out its business and establishing a very difficult and intrusive inspection regime for Iraq. I personally don’t believe that’s going to succeed because I am convinced from past evidence and experience that the Iraqis are going to do everything they can to hide these programs and you can’t expect a country against its will. But, nevertheless, I think the process, the political process of the world’s consensus building in the U.N., it will have to be gone through all the way.
RAY SUAREZ: Does it strength the hand of the inspection fans?
PATRICK LANG: I think it does. There is two parts to the inspections: one is to make sure the inspectors can do their job, that they’re not inhibited from going anywhere they need — with having proper equipment – access to the Iraqis; they need to interview I would say without the security minders.
The other part is we have to have a clear understanding of what non-compliance means. In the 1990s that was lost. I think if this inspection process is going to start, people have to understand that if Iraq doesn’t cooperate, then they haven’t complied. We shouldn’t have a situation or tolerate a situation where inspectors go some place and they are just told to wait outside while the Security Council kind of spins its wheels, but the inspection force should go in and know that if it doesn’t get into a site, or if it sees non-cooperation, which could be a series of lies detected through interviewing Iraqis, they should report back to the Security Council Iraq hasn’t complied and then leave Baghdad basically.
RAY SUAREZ: Meant to be a justification for military action — does it end up being an endorsement of inspections, Judith Yaphe?
JUDITH YAPHE: I guess it could be if they were to succeed. I think one of the problems is we’re not just talking about one inspection. But there has to be, what, the first inspection which is a baseline and then additional inspections to go out. It takes many inspections in other words many different teams. We will know, on the one hand, with the first inspection if they are going to be allowed to proceed to do full and unfettered inspections so there may be a clear answer of no there, in which case U.N., thank you very much, we tried the inspection route; it didn’t work.
But I don’t know that the – I think it’s an important question — is our administration or any administration or the U.N. willing to wait this process out to see if it will work because it’s not going to be inspecting in the middle of October and we’ll know. If that one goes, you’re going to have many more. So that could push this way down the road. Does our administration have the patience to wait for that process to work it itself out?
RAY SUAREZ: Guests, thank you all.