A top former British intelligence official had misled the public about the former Iraqi regime’s weapons program to pave the way for war, it is now revealed.
The then Prime Minister Tony Blair had assigned Sir John Scarlett to write the notorious dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on September 2002.
But, Scarlett, who was head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, sent a memo to Blair’s foreign affairs adviser referring to “the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional”.
Joint Intelligence Committee was duty-bound to give impartial intelligence-based advice to ministers, but in this case, intelligence has been misrepresented to make the case for war.
The former intelligence official Michael Laurie had told the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war that it was widely understood that the dossier was intended to make a case for war and misrepresented intelligence to this particular end. Now, Laurie’s claimed are evidenced by the disclosure.
Later, it was found that Scarlett had willfully made up the intelligence to look as credible as possible and render a war on Iraq as certain. He was awarded by Tony Blair the post of foreign intelligence agency’s chief in spite of all this.
Scarlett’s memo was sent to Sir David Manning, Blair’s chief foreign policy adviser, in March 2002 after an early draft of the dossier had been drawn up covering four countries with “WMD programmes of concern”: Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, had commented that the paper “has to show why there is an exceptional threat from Iraq. It does not quite do this yet.” In response, Scarlett suggested that the dossier could make more impact if it only covered Iraq. “This would have the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional,” he wrote.
Clare Short, the Labour cabinet minister who resigned after the war had started, said: “Those words show that John Scarlett was in on the deception from the beginning and was being duplicitous deliberately.”
Elfyn Llwyd, parliamentary leader of Plaid Cymru, said: “It is clear to me that John Scarlett was not an objective player in all of this.” Llwyd asked why Chilcot had neither published the Scarlett memo nor questioned Scarlett about it. “It again calls into question the credibility of the inquiry,” he said.
The memo, released under the Freedom of Information Act, has been described as one of the most significant documents on the dossier yet published.