| Head of the press office for Britain’s ministry of defence, Pam Teare, leaves the royal courts of justice in London. (Reuters)
London, Aug. 18 (Reuters): The dossier on which British Prime Minister Tony Blair based his case for war against Iraq contained no proof of any threat from Baghdad, according to an e-mail from a top aide released today.
The e-mail is the first public sign of questioning within Blair’s inner circle about the strength of intelligence used to justify a war that most Britons opposed.
“The document does nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from (Iraqi President) Saddam (Hussein),” Blair’s chief of staff and long-time confidant Jonathan Powell wrote to a senior intelligence official.
“It shows he has the means but it does not demonstrate he has the motive to attack his neighbours, let alone the West,” Powell wrote in an e-mail one week before the controversial dossier was published on September 24, 2002, six months ahead of the US-British invasion of Iraq.
Powell’s comments, revealed in an inquiry into the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly, cast further doubt on Blair’s own claim in the foreword to the dossier that Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons programme posed a “serious and current threat”. His e-mail made clear the evidence alone would not turn sceptical public opinion, saying: “The dossier is good and convincing for those who are prepared to be convinced.”
Senior judge Lord Hutton’s inquiry is a key test for Blair, whose public trust ratings have plunged over the government’s handling of the Kelly affair and the failure to find any banned weapons in Iraq four months after Saddam’s overthrow.
Kelly slashed his wrist after being named as the source for a BBC reporter who accused Blair’s communications chief Alastair Campbell of “sexing up” the dossier by inserting claims that Saddam could deploy banned weapons at 45 minutes’ notice.
The inquiry also saw an e-mail between Campbell and Powell, dated September 5, in which Campbell said a decision was taken for a “substantial rewrite” of the dossier and a restructuring of the document “as per TB (Tony Blair’s) discussion”. That will give fresh ammunition to critics who argue that Blair’s officials tried to unduly influence the intelligence services’ presentation of evidence against Saddam.
A poll last week showed 41 per cent of the British public blame the government for Kelly’s death and 68 per cent think the government was dishonest over the Iraq war.
Blair released a series of pre-war documents to bolster the case for military action.
The September dossier has been criticised over the 45-minute claims, which came from a single uncorroborated source, and disputed allegations that Iraq had sought to acquire uranium from Niger for nuclear weapons.
Campbell is expected to take the stand tomorrow.