ON VALENTINE’S DAY in 1998, Robin Cook – then Britain’s Foreign Secretary – came out with a new position on Iraq. “Doing nothing, he said, “is not an option.” It was, nonetheless, an option which both Britain and the US proceeded to take.
February 1998 was the turning point in US-Iraq relations. In Washington, the US House of Representatives decided that the policy of containing Saddam Hussein through United Nations sanctions is not working, and started preparing for unilateral military action. This started the path to a second Gulf War.
In 1998, UN sanctions were still working reasonably effectively. But as sympathy grows for Iraq in the Arab world, and antagonism towards the US grew, its former enemies are reopening embassies and clandestine trade links. Iraq is now estimated to be making $2.2 billion a year in illicit trade. After years in financial shackles, imposed by the UN, Iraq is now beginning to break free.
Opponents of a second Gulf War have throughout argued there is not enough evidence to justify an attack. Although the withdrawal of UN weapons inspectors in December 1998 removed the main source of information, both London and Washington have been regularly updating their intelligence with testimonies from informants and information from spy satellites.
Much of this intelligence is in the public domain. The Scotsman’s dossier collates what is known and lays down the evidence which may soon be used to justify an attack on Iraq. It has drawn from United Nations reports, statements from defectors, the defence industry trade press, military US think-tanks, summary reports from Australia (which formerly led the UN weapons inspectors team), and the biannual CIA statement to US Congress and evidence given to Capitol Hill committees. It also includes the reports from the Washington Post and the New York Times, regarded as CIA leaks, which have made the most impact in the US.
The result paints picture of a dictator who has been bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction and has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal his plans. All the evidence points towards Saddam developing chemical weapons and that he already may have enough, as the Australian government’s dossier suggests, “to theoretically obliterate the entire global population.”
But it stops short of a smoking gun. No one, in either London or Washington, is understood to have incontrovertible proof that Saddam is developing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. The evidence simply proves that he has the means and the inclination.
Whether this is enough to justify an attack on Iraq is the question which Britain must now answer.
IRAQ’S NUCLEAR PROGRAMME
“Saddam is doing everything he can do without special [nuclear] material, and [he is] betting on acquiring the material outside Iraq. There are places they can go and find it on sale. And when that happens, they’ll be able to surprise the world with a finished weapon” – David Kay, leader of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection missions to Iraq (Quoted in The Record (Bergen County, New Jersey), 4 August 2002).
Iraq now has all the elements of a workable nuclear weapon, except the fissile material needed to fuel it, according to defectors. With Iraq’s trade links now reopening, and 7,000 nuclear engineers employed, it is feared that this final stage will not take for long.
Before UN inspectors left Iraq, the following had been ascertained:-
• Iraq had developed a blueprint for a nuclear bomb. It is a sphere measuring 32 to 35 inches in diameter, with 32 detonators. It would weigh less than a tonne and would fit on a Scud missile.
• Iraq has already tested a nuclear bomb dummy, with a non-nuclear core
• Iraq was running 30 nuclear research and production facilities. It had laboratory-scale plutonium separation programme and was also working on a radiological weapon, which scatters nuclear material without an explosion
Sep 1990 After the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq launches a “dash for the bomb”, hoping to complete construction within a year.
Aug 1995 Saddam’s son-in-law, Lt General Hussain Kamil, defected to the US. He had been placed in charge of the WMD programme and provided substantial evidence.
Aug 1995 Faced with this, Iraq then admitted to starting its attempts at a fast-track nuclear programme, which involved diverting nuclear fuel from power stations to the weapons laboratories
May 1998 Iraq ordered six “lithotripter” machines, saying they would be used to treat kidney stones. Each machine contains a high-precision electronic switch which triggers atomic bombs. It ordered six extra switches.
May 2000 The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency, which also carried out inspections on Iraq until Dec 1998) discovered and destroyed an Iraqi nuclear centrifuge which had been stored in Jordan.
Sep 2000 Saddam publicly calls for his “nuclear mujahedin” to “defeat the enemy.”
Dec 2001 A former Iraqi nuclear scientist, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, who has defected to the US, gives an interview to the New York Times from a safe destination in Bangkok (An interview with Mr Saeed was arranged by the Iraqi National Congress, an exiled opposition group to Saddam, whom had helped him escape. It appeared on p1 of the New York Times on 20 December 2001, entitled: “A nation challenged: Secret sites.”). His evidence is described as “plausible” by Richard Butler, an Australian former head of UN Iraq inspections. Mr Saeed said that:-
• Iraq has reactivated 300 secret weapons laboratories since the withdrawal of UN weapons inspectors
• Nuclear production and storage facilities are being hidden to the rear of government companies and private villas in residential areas.
• Weapons are being stored underground in what are made to look like water wells, lined with lead-filled concrete.
• Several empty facilities have been prepared, so projects can be on the move and withstand the bombing of one facility.
• Material from Leycochem, a German construction company, had arrived for under UN-approved schemes, but then redirected to nuclear development.
Feb 2002 George Tenet, CIA director, tells US Congress that Saddam “never abandoned his nuclear weapons programme. Iraq retains a significant number of nuclear scientists, program documentation and probably some dual-use manufacturing.”
Mar 2002 August Hanning, head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Services, tells the New Yorker magazine that “It is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb within three years.” (Germany has been particularly assiduous in tracking Saddam, as he is known to have used German and UK companies when trying to build a nuclear bomb before the Gulf War. Mr Hanning was quoted in the New Yorker, 25 March 2002. “The great terror,” page 52.)
July 2002 Khidir Hamza, a defecting Iraqi nuclear science director, gives extensive evidence to US Congress (A full transcript of his Capitol Hill Hearing Testimony, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is available on Federal Document Clearing House, dated July 31 2002.). It includes:-
• “With the workable design and most of the needed components for a nuclear weapon already tested,” he said, “Iraq is in the final stages of its programme to enrich enough uranium for the final component needed in the nuclear core.”
• German intelligence, with whom he has been in contact, believes Iraq now has “ten tonnes of uranium and one tonne of low-level uranium” – enough to make three bombs by 2005.
• “The Iraqi economy is basically on a war footing,” he concluded. “If Saddam manages to break into the nuclear club, he will become the undisputed leader of the Arabs.”
July 2002 Saddam tells Iraqi state television that allegations of an Iraqi weapons programme are “almost a joke.”
IRAQ’S BIOLOGICAL & CHEMICAL WEAPONS
“Iraq is still building and expanding an infrastructure capable of producing weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad is expanding its civilian chemical industry in a way that could be quickly diverted into chemical weapon production.” - George Tenet, CIA director, Feb 2002
Iraq’s skill at hiding its weapons factories is demonstrated by the fact that the United Nations took four years of inspections to find out about its biological programme. Its scope is immense, UNSCOM found evidence of 38,500 chemical and biological munitions and 690 tonnes of chemical agents.
The anthrax found in US letters in late 2001 is not understood to come from Iraq. It was the Ames strain, discovered in Iowa in 1980, and is more likely to have come from within the US.
Potency of Iraq’s chemical and biological arsenal
Aflatoxin: Iraq studied how to induce liver cancer using aflatoxin. It has no direct military value as cancer, once contracted, takes years to develop.
Anthrax: One ounce in an air conditioning system in a sports stadium could infect 70,000 in an hour.
Botulinum: One of the most poisonous substances known. A fatal dose can be 70 billionths of a gram. It is estimated that 80 per cent of those who inhale it will die within three days.
Clostridium: A bacteria which can cause gas gangrene. It can result in acute lung distress, leaking blood vessels, breakdown of red blood cells and liver damage.
VX: A nerve agent, so advanced that the smallest concentration against the skin can kill
NB: Iraqi opposition groups claim Saddam has far more biological weapons including cholera, mycotoxins, Ricin, shigella, rotavirus and smallpox.
• Iraq is understood to have stockpiled 550 mustard gas bombs. It told UNSCOM it destroyed them, but provided no evidence – leading UNSCOM to dismiss this claim as a lie.
• In February 1998, UNSCOM tests on shells taken from Iraq produced in 1996 found 96 per cent pure mustard gas. This proved it had been freshly produced.
• Iraq initially told the UN that it had not attempted to produce VX.
• By 1995, UNSCOM had produced enough circumstantial evidence to force Iraq into admitting 3.9 tonnes of it. None of it was ever accounted for.
• UN inspectors found documents suggesting that Iraq had imported 810 tonnes of chemicals needed to make VX. The UN vouched for the destruction of 191 tonnes, but no more (United Nations “Report of the Secretary General on the Activities of the Special Commisison”: S/1997/774, Oct 6, 1997). This leaves 619 tonnes of precursor chemicals unaccounted for.
• The Australian Government’s 1997 report argues that this is enough to make “200 tonnes of VX – which could theoretically obliterate the entire global population.” (“Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Capabilities: Australian analysis based on the UN Special Commisison”. Read it here)
• In November 1998, UNSCOM said that some unearthed missile warheads, tested in a US Army Lab, contained traces of VX.
• Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the anti-Saddam Iraqi National Congress, says his informants support fears that Saddam’s VX stockpiles is substantially larger than the 3.9 tonnes it admitted to the UN.
• Chalabi also says it has been converted to a dry salt for long-term storage.
Iraq’s development of chemical and biological weapons
May 1988 Starts research on aflatoxin at a laboratory in al Salman. Its method was to grow fungus aspergilus in 5.3 quart flasks (The Center for Strategic and International Studies, “If We Fight Iraq: Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction,” revised 28 June 2002) .
Nov 1989 Develops 16 R-400 Aflatoxin bombs, and conducts trials in 122mm rockets.
April 1991 Iraq tells UN that it has never had any biological materials, weapons, research or
Jan 1991 Tests run on crop spraying helicopters, to test their suitability for spraying biological weapons.
Aug 1991 Iraq admits to a biological weapons research programme
July 1995 Iraq admits to have made substantial progress in its biological weapons programme, making just under 30,000 litres of biological agents and filled munitions. This included 19,000 litres of Botulinium, 8,400 liters of antrax and 2,000 liters of aflatoxin and clostridium
Aug 1995 Iraq admits to having produced 191 biological bombs, of which 25 were missile warheads which had been loaded with anthrax, botulinum and aflatoxin for use in the Gulf war.
Sep 1995 Iraq admits two projects to testing the delivery of biological weapons through Mirage F-1 and MiG-21 aircraft.
Jul 1998 Iraq confiscated documents from UNSCOM weapons inspectors documents suggesting that it overstated by 6,000 the number of bombs it had used in its war with Iran. It allowed inspectors to make notes, but kept the original document, infuriating the UN and the US. This event triggered what was to become Operation Desert Fox.
Aug 2000 The CIA reports to US Congress that Iraq is converting an L-29 trainer jet into an unmanned aircraft which could spread chemical and biological weapons. Work was suspected to be carried out at the Al-Faris factory, where Iraq built drop tanks to deliver weapons before the Gulf War.
Jan 2001 Iraq is reported to have rebuilt two factories in the Falluja complex, which produced chemical and biological weapons before the Gulf War.
Mar 2001 Iraq writes to the United Nations giving notice of its plans to asking to reopen the Daura factory, which had been shut down by UNSCOM in 1996 after it was found to make biological weapons. Iraq said it needed to reopen Daura to produce vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease.
May 2001 Iraq takes over several crop-dusting helicopters from the United Nations, against US protest that they may be used for a biological weapons attack.
Sep 2001 Iranian reports say 20 Iraqi soldiers based in Zaafarniyah region had died and 200 suffered severe breathing problems after taking part in chemical weapons exercise around June.
Apr 2001 August Hanning, head of the BND (German’s Federal Intelligence service), gives an interview to a German Sunday newspaper. “New chemical weapons are being developed in Iraq. German companies apparently tried to deliver important components for the production of poison gas to Iraq’s Samara plant.” (Interview published by Welt am Sonntag, a German Sunday newspaper, on 22 April 2001, entitled: “The spy who came in from Westphalia”) This is compatible with Mr Saeed’s evidence.
Dec 2001 Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, an Iraqi defector, gives evidence saying that:-
• Biological weapons were being developed at the back of the Saddam Hussein hospital in Baghdad. (This was later corroborated by Khidhir Hamza, another defector, who told US congress that “the computer we used for nuclear weapon design is now located in a hospital at the outskirts of Baghdad.”)
• Biological and chemical weapons were tested on Kurdish and Shiite prisoners in 1989 and 1992.
Jul 2002 The Washington Post runs a detailed report (“Reality is uncertainty,” by Joby Warrick, Washington Post, 31 July 2002) suggesting that the CIA has found a laboratory called Tahhaddy, or “Challenge”, on the west bank of the Tigris river, employing a team of 85 scientists working on a viral strain code-named Blue Nile. Details sound similar to Ebola Virus, a lethal hemorrhagic disease.
Aug 2002 US satellites detect a convoy of 60 trucks at a one of main suspected biological weapons factories, called the Taji Cell Protection Plant.
IRAQ’S BALLISTIC MISSILES
Iraq started purchasing Soviet Scud missiles in the 1970s. They have a range of 300km but Iraq succeeded in doubling this to 600km when it developed the al-Hussein missile. These, as the Gulf War demonstrated, can reach Tel Aviv.
UN Security Council resolution 687 required Iraq to destroy all missiles with a range greater than 150km, but left it free to develop missiles whose range falls within its circumference. Washington and London believe this is a loophole which has allowed Saddam to develop his own missile production skills.
Since the UN weapons left in December 1998, the following remain unaccounted for and are understood to be still in Iraq:-
• Nine ballistic missiles
• Two of the 45 chemical and biological warheads Iraq claimed to have destroyed in 1991.
• Two of the 819 Soviet-supplied Scud missiles.
• 150 tonnes of missile production materials
• Iraq’s stockpile of 300 tonnes of liquid missile fuel
• 50 conventional Scud warheads
• 30 Iraqi-made warheads
• 7 Iraqi-made missiles
Dec 1995 Jordan reports seizing 115 Russian-made missile guidance components which it said were bound for Iraq.
Jan 1996 UNSCOM finds prohibited missile guidance gyroscopes, suitable for a 2,000-mile range missile. The discovery was made in the Tigris river.
May 2000 Richard Butler, former UNSCOM chairman, says that Iraq’s two permitted/range missiles, the Ababil-100 and the al-Samoud, have a range of 375 miles.
Dec 2000 Iraq displays its arsenal at the al-Aqsa military parade, displaying three short-range missiles: the al-Samoud (a liquid-fuelled, scaled-down Scud), the al-Fath and the al-Raad. Jet fighters and helicopter gunships were also on show.
Jun 2001 An article in the US Commentary magazine details how Iraq has been trying to buy conventional weapons components, in defiance of UN regulations, from Ukraine, Belarus and Romania.
Jan 2002 The National Intelligence Estimate, an annual US publication, said that Iraq could make a missile which could reach the US by 2015.
May 2002 The US presents to the United Nations evidence that Iraq is producing missiles capable of reaching further than the 150km UN limit.
IRAQ’s USE OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION & WAR RECORD
Sept 1980 Iraq invaded Iran, starting an eight-year war where it deployed chemical weapons against Iranian troops and ballistic missiles against Iranian cities.
Feb 1988 Iraq forcibly relocated Kurdish refugees from their home villages in the Anfal campaign, killing between 500,000 and 180,000 Kurds
Mar 1988 Iraq used chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurdish rebels in Halabja, killing an estimated 5,000 Kurds and causing numerous birth defects which affect the town today.
Aug 1990 Iraq began a seven-month occupation of Kuwait, killing and committing numerous abuses against Kuwaiti civilians, some 620 of whom remain unaccounted for.
Apr 1993 Iraq orchestrated a failed attempt to assassinate President George Bush during his visit to Kuwait,
July 2002 Kofi Annan says that Iraq has now promised to return Kuwaiti state documents and archives. It had admitted to having impounded six truckloads of documents.
• Of the 17 cases for Saudi Arabia nationals, all remain unresolved.
• Iraq admitted to detaining 126 Kuwaitis, but said no more about their fate.
• The following military arsenal are still missing from Kuwait:-
o Eight Mirage F-1 aircraft
o 245 Russian-made fighting vehicles
o 90 M113 armoured personnel carriers
o One Hawk battery
o 3,750 Tow anti-tank missiles
o 675 Russian surface-to-air missile batteries.
IRAQ’S SUPPORT FOR TERRORISM
Iraq is formally listed as one of the US’s state sponsors of terrorism. However, neither the FBI or the CIA have been able to link Saddam or any Iraqi to the events of 11 September. Attempts to draw a link between the two have produced the following results.
• Defecting intelligence officers have reported seeing non-Iraqi fundamentalists being trained at Salman Pak, an Iraqi intelligence camp 20 miles south of Baghdad.
• Iraq has the fuselage of an old Tupolev 154 airliner, which is used for hijacking training in Salman Pak. It was witnessed by Charles Duelfer, former deputy director of UNSCOM, who said the Iraqis claimed it was for counter-terrorist training. The UN, he said, “automatically took out the word ‘counter’”
• Osama bin Laden is said to have been a frequent visitor to the Iraqi embassy in Kartoum while al Qaeda was based in Lebanon.
• Iraq had harboured the Abu Nidal organisation, prior to the terrorist’s reported suicide in August 2002
• Iraq is harbouring the Palestinian Liberation Front of Abu Abbas
• Iraq has offered to pay $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Dec 1998 Osama bin Laden reported to have met Farouk Hijazi, Iraqi’s ambassador to Turkey and an intelligence officer (Information from the Wisconian Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a Washington-based think tank. Gary Milhollin, its director and Professor Emeritus of the University of Wisconian Law School, gave evidence to US International Relations Committee on 4 Oct 2001).
Apr 2001 Mohammed Atta, the lead 11 September hijacker, is said to have met Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, an Iraqi agent, in Prague, according to Czech intelligence.
Sep 2001 US intelligence officials quoted in Washington Post saying that an Iraqi intelligence official had met Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, one year previously.
Sep 2001 Mr Hijazi is pulled out of Ankara by Baghdad.
Mar 2002 The New Yorker magazine runs an extensive article linking Al Qaeda to Iraq, saying its members are relocating from Afghanistan to Northern Iraq.
May 2002 CIA and FBI officials say that, after an exhaustive search, no evidence has been found linking Saddam to 11 September.
BREAKING FREE FROM THE SHACKLES: IRAQ’S TRADE RECOVERY
The UN policy of containment was dependent on Iraq having its economic power curtailed by sanctions. However, this framework is rapidly disintegrating as other countries show increasing sympathy towards Iraq.
In May 2002, the US General Accounting Office said that, in 2001, Iraq earned $2.2 billion in illicit trade, $1.5billion of it through illicit exports and $700 million in surcharges. In September 2002, Tony Blair said this may be closer to $3.0 billion (Answering questions in a press conference in his Sedgefield constituency, 3 Sept 2002. The Prime Minister said at the time the figure came from memory, and may not be exact).
• In his evidence to US Congress, Khidir Hamza, a defector, said that “Iraq is using corporations in India and other countries to import the needed equipment for its programmes, then channel them through countries like Malaysia for shipment to Iraq.”
• Turkey now makes $400 million a year by taxing energy products smuggled from northern Iraq.
Nov 1998 The Iraq-Syria oil pipeline reopens. The Syrians use Iraq’s oil, then export more of their own. This illicit operation earns Baghdad $800 million a year.
Apr 2002 The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain both reopen embassies in Baghdad, leaving Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as the only two Arab states with no diplomatic links to Iraq.
Apr 2001Tapes are released showing that Leonid Kuckma, president of the Ukraine, agreeing to sell the “Kolchuga” anti-aircraft radar to Iraq in July 2000. Tape was released by his former bodyguard, who defected to the UN and testified in a court in California. He died in a car crash in March 2002.
Jan 2001 Turkey, which says UN sanctions have cost it $35 billion, returns an ambassador to Iraq.
Feb 2001 Iraq expands its Russian and Belarus embassies, appointing a senior military officer to head a new unit in Moscow.
Jan 2002 Iraq’s Foreign Minister visits Iran
Jan 2002 Saudi Arabia reopens its border with Iraq under the UN’s oil-for-food programme
Mar 2002 Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq take steps to reconcile at the Arab League Summit in Jordan.
THE LEGALITIES OF UNILATERAL MILITARY ACTION
The US believes that Iraq is in violation of its ceasefire agreements, and is now vulnerable to the same military attack authorised in 1990.
Internal US law
On 3 Feb 1998, when Clinton officials, preparing for what was to become Desert Fox, said the authority from military action was drawn from the joint resolution passed by Congress on the eve of the Gulf War. This resolution, named PL102-1, has no expiry date. It was argued that, as far as the Congress is concerned, this provides US administration with the authority to use force against Iraq.
United Nations law
The US also argues that any future attack on Iraq will be legal under international law, under the following UN Resolutions:
• Resolution 678 (29 Nov 1990) authorising military action after the invasion of Kuwait
• Resolution 687 (3 Apr 1991) making a ceasefire dependent on a number of conditions, including the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction.
The US’s interpretation is, however, opposed by every member of the UN Security Council with the exception of the UK.
EVENTS IN THE CURRENT CRISIS
3 Mar 1991 Ceasefire agreed on Persian Gulf War, or Operation Desert Storm
3 Apr 1991 UN passes Resolution 687, ordering the destruction of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction
17 Jun 1993 UN issues its last finding of “material breach” against Iraq.
20 Mar 1996 UNSCOM reports Iraqi resistance, violating the “unfettered access” agreement.
23 Oct 1997 After more than a year of Iraqi interference, the UN suspends sanctions reviews until April 98.
29 Oct 1997 Iraq bans Americans in UNSCOM from making any inspections.
13 Nov 1997 Iraq expels Americans working for UNSCOM
14 Nov 1997 US House of Representatives passes motion backing unilateral US military action against Iraq, but only as a last resort.
14 Feb 1998 Robin Cook, then UK Foreign Secretary, first uses the phrase “doing nothing is not an option” with Iraq. This was to become UK government’s position until August 2002.
23 Feb 1998 Iraq offers access to eight “Presidential sites” in Iraq, in a compromise deal.
2 Mar 1998 UN Security Council seeks to bolster compromise by passing a unanimous resolution (1154) saying that Iraq’s failure to comply with UN sanctions will have the “most severe consequences”
Runup to Operation Desert Fox
06 July 1998 Iraq seizes from UNSCOM documents suggesting it may have 6,000 more bombs left over from its war with Iran than it had admitted to.
5 Aug 1998 Iraq says it will no longer allow UNSCOM to inspect new facilities
14 Aug 1998 US Senate passes a motion declaring Iraq to be in “material breach” of its obligations.
09 Sep 1998 UN Security Council unanimously passes Resolution 1194, suspending sanctions reviews.
31 Oct 1998 Iraq bans all remaining UNSCOM activities
14 Nov 1998 Clinton delays his planned strikes on Iraq by 24 hours, in hope of lastminute deal.
15 Nov 1998 A deal is delivered, as Iraq agrees to rescind its ban on UNSCOM activities. Diffuses crisis.
15 Dec 1998 UNSCOM weapons inspectors withdraw from Iraq, saying Saddam has not delivered the unfettered access he promised, rendering the team unable to perform their mission.
16 Dec 1998 Operation Desert Fox begins. US and UK launch 415 cruise missiles and 200 bombs at 50 Iraqi locations. It was, however, a flop (The Center for Strategic and International Studies has described Desert Fox as “a near total failure.” Its full report is entitled “If We Fight Iraq,” revised 28 June 2002). Only ten targets were destroyed and 18 severely damaged. US says it killed 1,400 Iraqi troops. Baghdad says 62.
20 Dec 1998 End of Desert Fox, a 72-hour operation. Clinton says more may follow.
03 Jan 1999 Saddam declares no-fly zones as “illegal” and says his people will resist them with “bravery and courage”. Offers $15,000 bounty to any unit that succeeds in downing an Allied jet.
26 Mar 2001 Iraq complains to UN that allied air strikes have killed 315 and wounded 965 Iraqi civilians.
16 Feb 2001 February 2001 air strikes. US and UK fighters bomb five Iraqi defence instalments. The raid is reported to have had seen limited success.
24 July 2001 Iraqis fire a missile at U2 aircraft; defence sources say it came close to hitting it.
31 July 2001 US defense department reports Iraq’s “considerably more aggressive stance in trying to bring down allied aircraft.”
27 Aug 2001 Iraqi downs its first US aircraft – an unmanned USAF RQ1B Predator, or “drone”
11 Sep 2001 A second US “drone” is lost over Iraq.
September 11 attacks. Iraq only Arab country not to send formal condolences to US.
29 Jan 2002 In his state of the union address, George Bush identifies Iraq along with Iran and North Korea as forming an ”axis of evil”.
01 Jun 2002 President Bush, in a speech to graduating West Point cadets, says the US will “confront regimes that sponsor terror” and that they must “confront the worst threats before they emerge.” This is seen as introducing a doctrine of pre-emption.
06 Jun 2002 Dick Cheney, US vice president, develops the pre-emption theme in a speech saying that Saddam is a dictator who is pursuing “deadly capabilities” and such a regime “must never be allowed to threat America with weapons of mass destruction.”
17 Jun 2002 The Washington Post reports that President Bush has signed an order directing the CIA to overthrow Saddam using covert operations. This is not disputed by the White House.
05 Jul 2002 A round of weapons inspectors talks end in Vienna, with no conclusion.
03 Sep 2002 Tony Blair promises to release a dossier of evidence against Saddam.