45 Minutes: Behind the Blair Claim

45 Minutes: Behind the Blair Claim
False Intelligence on Iraqi Weapons Had Dubious Origins, Fateful Omissions

By Glenn Frankel and Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 29, 2004; Page A16

LONDON -- In early September 2002, as the United States and Britain sought to build the case for confronting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that his government would soon publish a dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Racing to meet Blair's deadline, Britain's intelligence services produced a 50-page report, the highlight of which was a claim that Iraqi troops could launch chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order.

The headlines that followed were dramatic. "Missiles Fly in 45 Minutes," read the usually sedate Times of London. "Brits 45 Mins From Doom," blared the more flamboyant Sun tabloid. Its story began: "British servicemen and tourists in Cyprus could be annihilated by germ warfare missiles launched by Iraq."

But the headlines were wrong -- and the dossier proved to be wrong as well.

The dossier had omitted the fact that the claim referred to battlefield munitions such as artillery shells, not to long-range missiles, which meant they could not reach such targets as Israel or Cyprus. Nor did it disclose that the claim had come secondhand from a single, uncorroborated source, and that some of the government's own experts believed it was questionable. And Blair has recently conceded that he did not know what the claim was referring to when he published it.

Weapons inspectors scouring Iraq have found no weapons of mass destruction. And the 45-minute claim has become the focus of a fierce debate here over whether Blair and President Bush used intelligence information to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

Experts in the field of weapons and intelligence say the case illustrates the pitfalls that arise when political leaders seek to invoke intelligence findings to justify their policies.

"One of the lessons here is, don't pretend to the public that the picture the intelligence services provide is clear and accurate, because it's not," said Michael Clarke, director of the International Policy Institute at King's College London. "Intelligence is never a picture, it's a series of inkblots."

Blair's spokesman has accused the prime minister's critics of "revisionism" in focusing on the credibility of the claim. "People appear to be implying that the government's case for taking action against Saddam was based on the 45-minute point," he told reporters earlier this month. "That is simply not true. The government's case has been based on the fact that Saddam had posed a threat and had been in breach of U.N. resolutions."

Sources of the Claim

This report retraces the shadowy journey of the 45-minute claim -- where it likely came from, how it got such a prominent place in the dossier and how it exploded into a controversy that still threatens Blair's premiership. It is based on testimony and documents from three British inquiries: one led by Lord Brian Hutton into the circumstances surrounding the death of a British weapons expert last July and two parliamentary investigations, by the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is also based on statements made in Parliament and interviews with some of the principals.

The origins of the 45-minute claim may lie with Abdul Jalil Mohsen Muhie, a retired Iraqi brigadier general, and his son-in-law, Lt. Col. Dabbagh, commander of an air defense unit in Iraq's western desert.

(to continue, click on the link below)


Thought you'd like to see what is being reported in the USA on this matter. Interesting read.


Book Reviewer
Ach so...ein Americanische Herein !

cf the thread on Osama's capture...what's your perpective then H-P ?

( and I ain't dumb enough to believe that just 'cos the avatar's female you are!)
Good Morning, Goatman!

There's a very interesting report in the Washington Post from a couple of weeks ago regarding the hunt for Osama. Very interesting read and a summation of a book called "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll that has just been released.

It's in two parts...



Here's an added article about the problems within the Clinton Administration that hindered the hunt for Osama.


To answer your question about the alleged capture of Osama, haven't seen anything from a credible news source stating this. All I have seen is crap reports from gossip rags.

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