If the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee had decided to set up a committee after the 1991 Gulf War to investigate whether assessments that Iraq possessed biological weapons had been mistaken, it would have concluded that there is no proof that Baghdad indeed possessed such weapons. It was another four years before Kamel Hussein, Saddam's son-in-law, defected to Jordan and revealed that the documents relating to Iraq's biological weapons were hidden on a farm. Only then was all the evidence for the existence of these weapons discovered.
Today, Iraq has been conquered by the United States, however, not one of the several people questioned by the Americans has supplied incriminating information about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Nevertheless, it is difficult to know what will be discovered in Iraq. Recently, several dozen MiG aircraft were found hidden underground near Baghdad. This attests to the fact that the Iraqis are artists when it comes to concealment, and they have learned much since 1991. Experts say that in any case, the quantity of hidden WMDs would be small, since most of these weapons were destroyed a long time ago - which, ironically, testifies to the fact that American deterrence was successful. But if Saddam had destroyed all his WMDs, he would surely have exploited this fact to strengthen opponents of the war.
The debate in the United States and Britain over whether U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair used intelligence services as tools to create a pretext for attacking Iraq has been a political argument from the outset. Those complaining have never stopped looking for reasons to declare the failure of their governments. The previous issue under debate was the abandonment of the Iraq national museum's treasures to looters because America's attention was focused on the oil fields. The information about WMDs in Iraq was deemed solid even in the days of former U.S. president Bill Clinton's government. Even French intelligence adopted the view that Saddam had such weapons.
Bush does not appear to be troubled about his own credibility with the public on this matter, even though the weapons have not been found. But the credibility of the intelligence services is liable to be severely damaged, for example, with respect to the information they are supplying about Iran's nuclear program.
A tendency to follow the crowd, the search for headlines, and political motivations have led certain members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to demand that Israeli intelligence also be investigated. American officials have expressed interest in the political intentions of the "investigators." There is no reason to avoid an investigation as long as it is professional. A probe will be easy to conduct, since most of the discussions were recorded. But the investigators must take into account that there will be political interests, including foreign ones, claiming that Israel helped mislead American public opinion.
It is hard to believe that Israeli intelligence would have been afraid to express its opinion had this opinion contradicted that of American intelligence. Long before the war, the head of Military Intelligence, Major General Aharon Ze'evi-Farkash, asked the "devil's advocate" unit to prepare an assessment on two questions: Is there a possibility that Iraq does not have nonconventional capabilities? And would Iraq use nonconventional weapons against Israel? The answer was that there was no way to contradict the claim that Iraq has residual WMD capability - not nuclear capability, but biological and chemical capability. There was also information about Iraq's acquisition activities overseas, including the establishment of shell companies.
Israeli intelligence determined that even though it was not known for sure whether there were surface-to-surface missiles in western Iraq, the Iraqis could reach Israel in airplanes that carried WMDs. It was known that Iraq had suddenly begun test flights of its lone Tupolev-16 plane, its Sukhoi-24s, and a Czech training plane. Incidentally, two days after the war began, intelligence informed the chief of staff that there was no longer any aerial threat to Israel. Israel's intelligence-gathering capabilities were immeasurably better than they were in 1991, and if there was a mistake before the war, it lay in accepting the idea that Saddam Hussein was liable to use WMDs against Israel if he felt his regime and his life were in danger.
After the war, certificates of appreciation were given to several intelligence units, including air force intelligence, satellite intelligence, Unit 8200, the foreign relations unit, and the research and assessments unit. An honest and professional investigation will undoubtedly reach the conclusion that these units earned their certificates fairly.
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