A case study of the Iraq weapon of mass destruction (WMD) fiasco

Subject: Political
Type: Profile Essay
Pages: 5
Word count: 1357
Topics: Army, Foreign Policy, International Relations


For a long time, nations and empires have used intelligence gathering as a way of maintaining superiority and averting attacks. After the 9/11 attack, the country found itself vulnerable and wanting in terms of intelligence gathering. Therefore, advanced technology, more workforce, and international policies were put in place to ensure intelligence gathering network was efficient and effective. Over time, the country has relied on intelligence gathered by its agencies to counter terrorism and promote peace. However, the reliability of such intelligence has come under criticism after the Iraq WMD fiasco. This paper intends to present a comprehensive analysis of the Iraq WMD fiasco as outlined by Robert Clark and propose methods that could have been used improve the situation.

Background Information

The events discussed by Robert Clark are as a result of legislative oversight of security intelligence agencies. Legislative control of security intelligence started in the 1970s after liberalization of states in Europe, South Africa, and Latin America where it was thought essential for the new regimes. Additionally, it was adopted by old democracies as a way of quick response to scandals (Gill 14-15). Although legislative oversight security intelligence is an important security tool if used well, sole reliance on such intelligence came under criticism after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 on claims of stocks of WMD. The case of Iraq indicates that intelligence agencies can be used by nations for political gains to propagate unfounded claims.

The United Nations Security Council in 1991 come up with resolutions that required Iraq to destroy its WMD stock and factories. In the resolution, the destruction was to be conducted under the supervision of UN or International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (Wedgwood pg 724). However, in an endeavor to retain a sizeable amount of the arsenal and equipment, the country embarked on years of obstructing inspection from UN. The continued obstruction prompted the Security Council to pass a number of resolution that demanded Iraq to comply. Reports indicated that UN inspection activities coupled with military operations destroyed a big number of the prohibited missiles and chemical ammunition used in the Gulf war (Robb 23-30). After 1998, Iraq barred UN inspectors from accessing its missile facilities. With the UN monitoring systems no longer working, the UN members relied on military intelligence to gather information on the production of WMD in Iraq.

With more than ten years of UN sanction on Iraq, intelligence experts believed that Iraq was advancing its plans of developing advanced nuclear weapons. Based on Iraq’s participation in the Gulf war and restriction of UN inspectors from accessing nuclear facilities made intelligence agencies to assume that the country was on the road to production of weapons of mass destruction (DCI). However, years later the presidential commission on intelligence admitted that the country’s intelligence agencies were “dead wrong” on Iraq’s WMD programs. Many are of the idea that such huge intelligence failure was not only due to use of assumptions but also had political interference. Additionally, in an endeavor to recover from the 9/11 attacks, the intelligence was keen to redeem itself but instead made the worst intelligence error in the U.S history.

According to Robert Clark (2016), the decision to attack Iraq was founded on entirely false intelligence (pg76). The prolonged conflict between Iraq and the UN on nuclear weapon control, the Gulf War, and the 9/11 attack is said to be the basis for cementing the belief that Iraq had an arsenal of WMD. The basis for the 2003 attack on Iraq was U.S intelligence that indicated that Saddam had WMD stock that was likely to fall into the hands of terrorists. However, results later showed that this intelligence was untrue and merely based on assumptions and fear. After attacking Iraq, it turned out that Saddam never had WMD arsenal and his close ties to terrorists could not be proven.

The U.S intelligence that was incorrect on the availability of WMD arsenal was used due to a number of reasons. As outlined above, the country was still re3covering from a terrorist attack of 9/11 and biological attack on Congress. Robert Clark in “A Tale of Two NIEs” states that the intelligence was based on a flawed methodology and that is why they got it all wrong. Additionally, due to the previous hostility between the two nations, that was all that the policymakers wanted to hear. Finally, intelligence that pointed in that direction was entirely supporting the U.S. commitment to control the use of nuclear weapons. Therefore, based on these reasons, it was very easy for the U.S. government to fall for the intelligence and act without further considerations (Atran 266).

The country’s intelligence systems relied on digital communication surveillance, information gathered by U.N inspectors, other sources to determine the state of Iraq’s WMD advancement. Research shows that the intelligence agencies did not have informants on the development sites, monitoring systems had been destroyed, and U.N investigators were only allowed to enter Baghdad once in a year (Potter 24-37). Therefore, the entire prediction methodology used to collect intelligence was just flawed and could not give accurate information. That is why Robert Clark in his publication states that they “got it all wrong” as was later proven after the invasion. Policymakers, on the other hand, exhibited high dependencies on intelligence analysis and bureaucracies that there were efforts to create information to support their course. Therefore, the invasion of Iraq was highly based on unsupported intelligence and politics.

Robert Clark states that it was easy to believe the intelligence presented by intelligence community because it supported the country’s predetermined policy. After the 9/11 attack, the country’s security was high threatened, and thus fear of terrorists having weapons of mass destruction was a worry to the country. Therefore, links of Saddam to Sunni terrorists advanced the theories that Iraq’s WMD arsenal could fall into the hands of the terrorists. Although invasion initially out of the question, change of regime would have taken long and thus the terrorists would have grown stronger by then. Therefore, the 9/11 attack speeded the country’s vision for a democratic world. This was supported by other members of the U.N. as initial advances to change the regime in the country had not succeeded.

After heavily spending in terms of money and manpower, there was no evidence of WMD anywhere in Iraq. Although other western countries believed in the false intelligence, it is only the credibility of the American intelligence that suffered (Brunson 12-27). Many intelligence analysts believe that the U.S. Intelligence would not have made such a bladder if it had undertaken existing methods to improve intelligence analysis. For instance, a combination of the following intelligence analysis method would have greatly affected the research conclusion:

  1. Intuitive method: – This method involve reading a bunch of available evidence, thinking about it and writing something. This is one of the most popular intelligence analysis methods despite the fact that it is prone to systematic biases.
  2. Analysis of Competing Hypothesis: – The main advantage of this method is that it produces better estimates within a short time. Despite its usability in any situation, it is entirely scientific. This method is highly usable as it can help intelligence analysts conduct come up with better results at every stage of intelligence analysis. ACH method is thus highly transparent and can be used in collaboration with other methods.
  3. Social network Analysis: – The method involves establishing a relationship between various entities in a research scenario. Although this method has got several variations, the one that is mostly used in the intelligence community is the link analysis charts. Due to its visual nature, analysts and policymakers are able to understand its results easily.

In conclusion, I agree with Robert Clark that U.S. attack on Iraq was entirely based on flawed intelligence. The paper has outlined the reasons behind the attack and how all of the reasons were based on wrong intelligence and politically motivated. Therefore, intelligence services all over the world are supposed to learn from this fiasco and combine various intelligence analysis methods to make accurate inferences.

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  1. Atran, Scott. “A failure of imagination (intelligence, WMDs, and “virtual jihad”).” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 29.3 (2006): 285-300.
  2. Brunson, Dione. 2003 IRAQ WAR: INTELLIGENCE OR POLITICAL FAILURE? . Masters Thesis. Washington, D.C. : Georgetown University, 2011.
  3. Clark, Robert M. Intelligence analysis: A target-centric approach. CQ press, 2016.
  4. DCI. “Iraq’s weapons of Mass Destruction Programs.” White Paper. 2002.
  5. Gill, Peter. “Evaluating intelligence oversight committees: The UK intelligence and security committee and the ‘war on terror’.” Intelligence and National Security 22.1 (2007): 14-37.
  6. Potter, Robert A. “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq.” Air & Space Power Journal 22.1 (2008): 123-125.
  7. Robb, Laurence H. Silberman and Charles S. The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. Washington D.C., 2005.
  8. Wedgwood, Ruth. “The Enforcement of Security Council Resolution 687: The Threat of Force Against Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.” The American Journal of International Law 92.4 (1998): 724-728.
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