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Israeli Inquiry Faults Domestic Intelligence on Iraqi Weapons

March 29, 2004|From Associated Press

JERUSALEM — A claim by Israeli intelligence that Iraq probably had weapons of mass destruction was based largely on speculation, not fact, parliamentary investigators said in a report Sunday. But they dismissed suggestions that Israel tried to push its Western allies to war.

The report also faulted the intelligence agencies for failing to detect Libya's chemical and nuclear programs, calling the lapse "intolerable."

The 80-page document delivered a rare rebuke to the country's highly regarded intelligence community, which has taken pride in its ability to penetrate hostile countries.

"The lessons of the war in Iraq are a warning light that the intelligence estimates could be turned from a working instrument into a useless one, and that there is a danger that they could once again be revealed in the future to be standing on shaky ground," the report concluded.

Ahead of the March 2003 invasion, Israeli military leaders warned of Iraq's weapons capabilities, although they said an attack on Israel was not likely.

Nonetheless, they ordered citizens to ready gas masks and recommended that each home have a sealed room to protect against chemical attack -- strengthening the perception that Israeli intelligence had a clear picture of Iraq's nonconventional weapons capability.

The precautions cost Israel many millions of dollars, but no missiles were fired at the country during the war. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraq fired 39 missiles with conventional warheads at Israel, causing damage but few casualties.

Sunday's report concluded that Israel had little concrete information about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons ahead of the 2003 invasion. Instead, intelligence agencies based their conclusions on assumptions and hearsay, the lawmakers found.

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