US team concludes Saddam had no WMD

By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

Financial Times

Published: April 27 2005

The US team investigating whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction has finished its 18-month search without finding any such weapons, underscoring the inaccuracy of the intelligence that triggered the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The Iraq Survey Group [ISG] issued its final report this week, saying its 1,700-member team had found no evidence that Iraq possessed biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

In October, Charles Duelfer, the former United Nations weapons inspector who heads the Central Intelligence Agency's ISG, released an interim report, concluding that Iraq's illicit weapons programmes had been destroyed in the 1991 Gulf war and by subsequent UN inspections.

That report prompted President George W. Bush to admit that much of the US intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq was “wrong”. But the Bush administration dismissed arguments that it was wrong to invade Iraq, saying Saddam Hussein still possessed the “intention” to develop WMD weapons.

Administration officials more recently have focused on the transition towards democracy, including the Iraq elections in January, to play down the faulty intelligence that led to the war.

“As matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible,” concluded Mr Duelfer in the report. “After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted.”

The ISG also found no evidence to support allegations that Iraq had moved WMD to Syria before the war, which some administration officials had said was possible.

John Shaw, then a deputy undersecretary of defence, in October said Russian “units” had helped move weapons out of Iraq to Syria. But Pentagon officials dismissed the allegations, which were also denied by the Russians.

Mr Duelfer said: “Based on the evidence available at present, ISG judged that it was unlikely that an official transfer of WMD material from Iraq to Syria took place.”

Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, has refused to investigate claims by critics of the Bush administration that officials politicised intelligence before the war.

Prior to the war, administration officials raised concerns about a possible link between Mr Hussein and the September 11 2001 attacks on the US following reports of an alleged meeting between one of the September 11 attackers and an Iraq intelligence officer in Prague.

Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the Senate armed services committee, recently criticised the administration over the claims, saying officials continued to raise the alleged meeting despite a CIA report disputing that the meeting ever took place.