& Iraq Inquiry
I have recently been raising the
issue, whenever the opportunity arises, of allegations made by Ron Suskind in his book
'The Way of the World' about the pre-war intellingence on Iraqi weapons.
Below, I detail these allegations and
their implications for the decision to go to war. I have asked the Intelligence and
Security Committee to respond to these allegations and my letter to the Chair, Kim Howells
is reproduced below. I have also included my speech from the Opposition Day Debate on an
Iraq Inquiry, where I raised these allegations to the House.
'The Way of the World'
Ron Suskind's book alleges that a
senior MI6 officer named Michael Shipster met Tahir Jalil Habbush, the head of Iraqi
intelligence, in Amman in the early days of 2003, and that Habbush assured Shipster that
Iraq possessed no active nuclear, chemical, biological or other weapons of mass
destruction. Suskind tells us that shortly before the invasion of Iraq, Sir Richard
Dearlove, then the MI6 chief, flew to Washington to brief the head of the CIA, George
Tenet, about this and that Tenet, in turn, immediately briefed President Bush.
Although the precise details of these events have been queried, none
of those whose involvement is alleged have refuted the substance of these claims.
These allegations add substance to the belief of many that the UK and
US Governments, in their zeal to go to war, had little concern for whether Iraq actually
possessed weapons of mass destruction. As such, they should be considered as vitally
important to any review of the events that led to the decision to go to war, yet they were
not mentioned in the Butler Report.
Intelligence and Security Committee
I have asked Kim Howells MP, Chair of the Intelligence and Security
Committee to investigate these allegations, my letter read as follows:
I am writing to you about reports from the journalist Ron Suskind, in his book The Way of the
World, about high-level intelligence meetings and briefings in the run
up to the Iraq war, which are absent from the ISC report on WMD
intelligence and to which they were highly relevant.
I would particularly like to raise the issue of Michael
Shipsters meeting with Tahir Jalil
Habbush, the Head of Iraqi intelligence, just before the start of the war in 2003. This meeting involved firm reassurances from Mr
Habbush that Iraq had no active nuclear, chemical, biological or other weapons of mass
Mr Suskind goes on to
claim that, shortly before the invasion of Iraq, Sir Richard Dearlove, then the MI6 chief,
flew to Washington to brief the head of the CIA, George Tenet, about this and that Tenet,
in turn, immediately briefed President Bush. None
of the British or American officials that Mr Suskind refers to have so far denied that the
meeting between Mr Shipster and Mr Habbush took place in Amman, or that Mr Habbush told Mr
Shipster that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.
I raised this matter
recently in the House during a debate about Binyam Mohammed and was told, as you will see
from the copy of my exchange with the Foreign Secretary, printed overleaf for your
information, that this was a question for another day.
I am surprised that this
matter was not considered as part of your aforementioned report on WMD intelligence and I
should like to request that the Committee considers this issue. Of course, if this is a matter already considered
by the Committee, I should be pleased to receive further details.
I should be grateful for
your response to these concerns.
LYNNE JONES MP
5 Feb 2009 : Column 1002
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend share my concern
that the former US Administration were prepared to use torture to extract information from
detaineesinformation that, by definition, must be unreliableyet ignored
reliable information provided by one of the UKs top agents, Michael Shipster,
through his long-standing source at the highest level of the Iraqi Government, that the
Iraqi Government did not have weapons of mass destruction? That information also provided
a credible explanation for Saddam Husseins reluctance to admit that.
David Miliband: I was with my hon. Friend for the first half of her question. The
differences that existed between this Government and the previous Administration were
discussed widely, specifically on whether water-boarding constituted torture. Those
differences were exemplified by the position that the Government took, which I think was
shared elsewhere in the House, that it did. Our position is absolutely clear: we are
signed up to international conventions and covenants, never mind national laws, in that
respect. I think that the Iraq question is for another day.
I have since received an acknowledgement from the Clerk to the
Committee stating that my letter has been passed to the Committee and I will receive a
Iraq Inquiry Debate
I also raised these allegations in the House during a recent
Opposition Day Debate on an Iraq Inquiry, my intervention was as follows:
25 Mar 2009 : Column 361
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I am aware of the time constraint, so
I shall be very brief.
spoke in the debate on the inquiry a year ago and gave my reasons for feeling that the
Butler inquiry and the Intelligence and Security Committee inquiries were completely
inadequate, so I shall not rehearse those arguments again. What I want to do today is draw
the Houses attention to an allegation by Ron Suskind, a United States investigative
author, in his book The Way of the World.
Suskinds information is based on conversations that he had with none other than Sir
Richard Dearlove, former head MI6, and his deputy Nigel Inkster. From those conversations,
Mr. Suskind learned that one of the United Kingdoms top agents, Michael Shipster,
actually metin Amman in 2003, just before the warTahir Jalil Habbush, who was
Saddam Husseins head of intelligence. Apparently, Mr. Habbush was a well-established
source of intelligence. I should be interested to know what has happened to him, because
he is not one of the members of Saddam Husseins former regime who have been
apprehended or brought to justice in any way. In fact, it has been suggested that he has
been protected by western intelligence sources.
Habbush told Michael Shipster that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, and
that far from seeking to conceal the presence of such weapons, he actually wanted to
conceal their absence because he was more concerned about a possible invasion from Iran
than about an invasion from the United States. The sources of that
informationRichard Dearlove and Nigel Inksterhave queried the exact
recollection of those conversations, but they have not denied the substance of the
allegation that one of our top agents obtained information that Saddam Hussein had no
weapons of mass destruction. It would appear that that intelligence was ignored, and we
also know from other sourcessuch as Brian Jones, the former branch head in the
Defence Intelligence Staff, and more recently, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member
for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), Carne Ross, who was First Secretary at the United Nations for
the Foreign Office until 2004that there are lots of facts in the run-up to the Iraq
war that have yet to come to light.
should be grateful to Ron Suskind for beginning to shine a light on some of the sources of
intelligence that were not drawn to the attention of the House, and were not mentioned in
the Butler report or by the Intelligence and Security Committee. I wrote to the Chair of
that Committee at the beginning of this month asking for an investigation into this
evidence. I have received an acknowledgement. I spoke to one of the assistant Clerks
today, who told me that I will receive a reply and gave various reasons why I have not
received more than an acknowledgement so far despite the fact that other people have
written to the Committee drawing attention to this information.
is clear that there were people in the intelligence community who knew the truth: that
Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Somehow, their views were
suppressed and we were given a completely false view of what the intelligence said. For
that reason, I believe we need a full inquiry under the kind of conditions that my hon.
Friend the Member for Pendle outlined, with witnesses required to give evidence on oath.
back to Iraq