Iraq document ‘proves’ caveat removal

By Ian Dunt

Government communications relating to a 2002 Iraq dossier making the case for war appear to confirm Downing Street lent on its authors to remove caveats.

The information, which comes from a Freedom of Information request, includes one memo to John Scarlett, director general of MI6, copied to Alastair Campbell, which specifically warns against too many caveats being included in the dossier.

“This confirms the widely held suspicions that leading officials and political advisers close to Tony Blair were deliberately tweaking the presentation of the intelligence to bolster the case for war on Iraq,” said Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Edward Davey.

“The jigsaw of how the public and some MPs were duped nears completion with this crucial revelation, and further strengthens the case for a full public inquiry.”

The Tories echoed that call, saying the government was running out of excuses to launch a full-scale inquiry into the war.

“These minutes shed interesting light on the process by which the caveats in the Joint Intelligence Committee’s original assessment of Iraq’s WMD programmes were stripped out of the dossier that was presented to parliament and the British people,” said William Hague, shadow foreign secretary.

“Now that British troops are coming home, there is no longer any excuse for delaying a full-scale inquiry into the origins and conduct of the Iraq war, other than the government’s concern that its own reputation might be damaged.”

The memo to Mr Scarlett, sent from Desmond Bowen, then-Cabinet Office defence expert and now policy director at the Ministry of Defence, suggests he did not believe Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat.

“The question which we have to have in the back of our mind is ‘why now?'” he wrote.

“I think we have moved away from promoting the idea that we are in imminent danger of attack and therefore intend to act in a pre-emptive self defence.”

Another email, apparently from an intelligence official, says the section of the dossier relating to chemical and biological weapons, might “give a misleading impression”.