Seven searching questions for Jack Straw to answer

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Indy Politics

Jack Straw will appear before the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, to answer questions about the decision to go to war with Iraq. This may be the only occasion the Foreign Secretary has to justify, in public and in detail, the extensive allegations he made about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Here Dr Glen Rangwala, a Cambridge expert on the WMD issue who has given written evidence to the Committee, reviews what we have learnt so far, and poses seven questions the committee should put to Mr Straw to understand how the case for war was constructed.

When Mr Straw became Foreign Secretary in 2001, was it the assessment of the British Government that Iraq had no active nuclear programme, long-range missiles or anthrax weapons?

Mr Straw's predecessor, Robin Cook, revealed to the committee last week that in the late 1990s, "we were not actually concerned about Saddam's missile programme", and that "we did not have anxiety that anthrax ... was on the verge of being turned into a weaponised capability". If this is accurate then Mr Straw needs to explain why each of these issues was identified as key concerns by 2002. Was new information available that rendered previous assessments invalid? Or did Mr Straw believe that the Iraqi regime had stepped up its activities?

What was the nature of the suggestions offered by ministers and special advisers to the Joint Intelligence Committee during the production of the Prime Minister's dossier of September 2002, "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction"?

Mr Straw has acknowledged in a memorandum to the Foreign Affairs Committee that ministers and special advisers "offered comments" on draft texts, but that the final text was approved by the Joint Intelligence Committee. What reason could there be for political input into the drafting process?

Who took the decision to produce the dossier, "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation", and when?

This, the plagiarised dossier released in January, was put together in a slapdash way, with even the typographical errors in the original academic articles retained. The Government has never explained why it produced a dossier that contained no information about Iraq's weapons, but was largely about the history of Iraq's intelligence services. Was it to shore up the claim Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, was about to make to the UN Security Council: that weapons inspectors were unable to find prohibited weapons because of Iraqi deception?

To what extent has the Government been reliant upon "human intelligence" - sources inside Iraq - in making its claims about Iraq's weapons?

Mr Cook said that during his time as Foreign Secretary, he found that neither the US nor Britain "really had much human intelligence inside Iraq". If this is indeed the case, what was the major source used by the British Government: individuals who claimed to be defectors, technological sources such as telephone taps or UN weapons inspectors?

Does the Foreign Secretary still believe that Iraq was attempting to import "significant quantities of uranium from Africa", as the Prime Minister claimed in his September 2002 dossier?

The documents presented to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), purporting to show that Niger had agreed to supply Iraq with uranium, are widely acknowledged to be fabricated. Tony Blair has insisted that the claim made in his September 2002 dossier was based on other sources. What are these sources and why were they not presented to the IAEA?

Mr Straw's memorandum to the Foreign Affairs Committee says that "at no stage prior to the publication of the dossier did the UK possess or have sight of these [fabricated] documents". A few days ago, I met a former US ambassador who had investigated these documents on behalf of the CIA. He told me the documents were passed to Washington by British intelligence agencies, who had obtained them in Italy in early 2002. Is Mr Straw able to confirm that documents on alleged uranium sales were passed to Washington?

Did the British Government keep significant amounts of intelligence information on Iraq's weapons from the UN weapons inspectors?

Security Council Resolution 1441 urged all states to provide any information that they had on Iraq's weapons to the inspectors. The head of the inspectors, Hans Blix, has acknowledged that information was given to them, but he questioned the quality and value of this intelligence.

Clare Short, who left the Cabinet after the war, has told the Committee that certain aspects were held back from the inspectors, but did not explain why. Mr Blair has himself stated that the British Government has information about Iraq's attempts to procure uranium that is different to the material held by the nuclear inspectors. Mr Straw should be asked to explain why this material was held back from them.

Why does Mr Straw believe Iraq was not co-operating with UN weapons inspectors at the time of the invasion, in mid-March 2003?

Mr Blix told the Security Council on 7 March that Iraq was taking "numerous initiatives ... with a view to resolving long-standing open dis- armament issues", and this "can be seen as 'active', or even 'proactive'" co-operation. Iraq had destroyed 72 of its 120 medium-range missiles at the insistence of the inspectors, and was ahead of the timetable to destroy the entire stock.

The regime sought to prove that it had destroyed bombs containing anthrax in 1991 by excavating the destruction site. By the time the war began the UN had carried out almost 600 inspections, visited more than 350 sites and was being allowed to interview scientistswithout restriction.

Some of these measures were overdue. But why did Mr Straw believe the process should be terminated, just as it was producing its most substantive results?

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