Israel accused over dud Saddam reports

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The Independent Online

Israel was a "full partner" in the intelligence failures that led to the conclusion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction before the US-led invasion, according to a report by an Israeli think-tank.

The findings will re-ignite the speculation over whether Israel was the "third country" that supplied intelligence used in Tony Blair's Iraq dossier, claiming Iraq had tried to get "significant quantities of uranium from Africa".

The report, by a former deputy director of the Israeli military's planning division, said the demand in the UK and the US for an investigation into how intelligence agencies concluded that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction "forgets there was a third senior partner to the assessment -- and that third partner was Israel".

The report said: "Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by US and British intelligence about Iraq's non-conventional capabilities ... [and] the failures in the war in Iraq point to inherent failures and weaknesses of Israeli intelligence and decision makers." It accuses Israel of producing "an exaggerated assessment of Iraqi capabilities," and raises "the possibility that the intelligence picture was manipulated".

The report, written by Brigadier-General Shlomo Brun for the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, has caused controversy in Israel. But in Britain it may fuel speculation surrounding the dossier published by Mr Blair to justify the war.

US intelligence agencies had discounted the claim about African uranium due to insufficient evidence. The UK Government defended its inclusion, saying it had access to information from an unnamed "third country", which US intelligence had not seen.

In Israel, an opposition MP, Yossi Sarid, has demanded an enquiry into Israel's intelligence failures before the invasion, in the light of the report's conclusions.

The report said: "A critical question to be answered is whether governmental bodies falsely manipulated the intelligence information in order to gain support for their decision to go to war in Iraq, while the real reasons for this decision were obfuscated or concealed."

Brigadier-General Brun said Israel's defence establishment "did not spare any cost to deal with non-existent threats or threats with zero possibility of actualization". Israeli intelligence was "taken over by a mono-dimensional view of Saddam that fundamentally described him as the embodiment of evil, a man in the grip of an obsession to develop weapons of mass destruction to harm Israel and others ... There was absolute indifference to the complexity of considerations that a leader like Saddam Hussein must have."

Survival was Saddam's main concern, and "such an assessment should have led to the conclusion that after 1991 developing weapons of mass destruction could become threatening to his survival."