Israel 'exaggerated' Iraq threat

An Israeli parliamentary subcommittee has criticised the country's intelligence services for exaggerating the risk of an Iraqi attack before and during last year's US-led invasion.

    Israel sent hearsay to US in the guise of intelligence

    In a 80-page report, due to be presented to President Moshe Katsav later on Sunday, the subcommittee blamed the intelligence establishment for having exaggerated the threat of non-conventional weapons while ignoring the threat posed by Libyan nuclear projects.


    The subcommittee, headed by foreign affairs and defence committee chairman Yuval Steinitz, is charged with monitoring the activity of Israel's secret services.


    It spent eight months considering the intelligence agencies' performance on Iraq. A secret section is still in preparation.


    A member of the parliamentary subcommittee that prepared the report said that Israeli intelligence ahead of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on "assessments rather than hard information." He spoke on condition of anonymity.


    Rumour as fact


    The report said that such hearsay, sent to the United States for verification, was leaked to the Israeli media in the guise of fact.


    Apparently, the information was recycled and accepted as fact by the Israeli

    government, it said. It was not immediately clear at what point rumours and

    speculation were presented as fact.


    Israeli intelligence hyped up
    the reasons for US-led invasion

    The report says Israel's coordination with foreign intelligence agencies was faulty,

    said members of the panel of inquiry.

    The subcommittee called for the implementation of far-reaching structural changes to the intelligence services.


    It illustrated the need for change by highlighting two major intelligence failures - the assessment that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and the failure to identify that Libya had developed nuclear capabilities.


    Overstating risk


    Four months ago, Israeli analyst Shlomo Brom published a report accusing the Israeli intelligence community of overstating the risk of an Iraqi attack.


    "The intelligence services greatly exaggerated the risk of a non-conventional attack without daring to say that it was little or nil," Brom said.


    "It goes without saying that exaggerating a threat is less dangerous than minimising a real risk but it is no less a mistake."


    "The intelligence services greatly exaggerated the risk of a non-conventional attack without daring to say that it was little or nil"

    Shlomo Brom,

    Israeli analyst

    In his report, Brom said the Israeli intelligence services had lost credibility with both their overseas counterparts and the public while also spending "a great deal of money on addressing threats that were either non-existent or highly unlikely."


    Precautionary measures taken included the mobilisation of troops, the deployment of anti-missile defences and the distribution of millions of gas masks to the population.

    All these were costly and completely unnecessary, the report said.


    Several months before the US-led invasion, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had warned the population of the risk of an Iraqi attack and said the country would take all necessary measures to counter it.


    And at the tail end of the invasion, the head of military intelligence, General Aharon Zeevi, said there was "no doubt that Iraq has non-conventional weapons."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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