The thing about Secretary of State Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003 is that while some of its pre-war intelligence-based details that were predictively imprecise have been severely panned in the politics, on the fact record – knowing what we know now – Powell’s presentation actually holds up very well. On the main points of his case presentation against Saddam, Powell was correct nearly across the board.
Of foundational importance, Powell correctly reiterated the burden of proof and standard of compliance with the UNSCR 1441 inspections, and that enforcement would be triggered by Saddam’s failure to comply and disarmed as mandated.
UNMOVIC confirmed and ISG [Iraq Survey Group] corroborated Powell’s view that Iraq did not comply and disarm as mandated by UNSCRs 687 and 1441.
ISG confirmed Powell’s view that Saddam was in fact covertly reconstituting Iraq’s WMD program in violation of UNSCR 687.
ISG confirmed Powell’s view regarding “denial and deception operations” and “concealment and destruction efforts” (ISG) and “many of these [suspect WMD-related] sites were…sanitized by the Regime” (ISG).
ISG confirmed Powell’s view that Saddam had no intention to comply with the UN mandates.
UNMOVIC confirmed Powell’s view that Iraq did not turn over the information required to establish the total verified declaration that accounted for Iraq’s entire WMD-related program, including for anthrax and other BW.
Albeit not the “mobile production facilities used to make biological agents” (Powell) that Powell depicted, ISG confirmed a covert IIS chemical and biological lab network along with CW- and BW-convertible capability.
For example, ISG: “The UN deemed Iraq’s accounting of its production and use of BW agent simulants … to be inadequate. … the equipment used for their manufacture can also be quickly converted to make BW agent.”
UNMOVIC, ISG historical accounts confirm Powell’s context setting of Iraq’s proscribed activity “when UNSCOM was in country and inspecting”. Again, Iraq’s ceasefire-proscribed WMD was established fact on which the burden of proof was on Saddam to disarm as mandated.
Powell’s statement, “There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more” is panned because ISG didn’t find them. [Note: "them" refers to BW stocks; UNMOVIC and ISG confirmed Iraq's dual-use biological production capability.] But in fact, Iraq failed to account for its BW program as mandated. Then ISG could not answer for the fate of Iraq’s missing BW agents, stocks, and equipment due to Iraq’s “denial and deception operations” and “concealment and destruction efforts” (ISG).
UNMOVIC confirmed Powell’s view that Iraq failed to account for its CW stores: “These quantities of chemical weapons are now unaccounted for.” The historical account also confirm Powell’s context setting of Saddam’s track record of “denial and deception operations” (ISG) on CW.
ISG confirmed Powell’s view that “Iraq has embedded key portions of its illicit chemical weapons infrastructure within its legitimate civilian industry”. ISG found a plethora of convertible dual-use items and activity.
ISG confirmed Powell’s view that “Iraq procures needed items from around the world using an extensive clandestine network”. ISG: “The IIS ran a large covert procurement program”.
ISG confirmed, “Early on, Saddam sought to foster the impression with his generals that Iraq could resist a Coalition ground attack using WMD.”
ISG confirmed that the covert undeclared IIS labs experimented on humans.
IAEA and ISG confirmed Powell’s context setting on Iraq’s track record of nuclear ambitions. ISG confirmed Saddam was revitalizing Iraq’s nuclear program and the indicators of proscribed nuclear-related activity, especially related to possible centrifuge activity, and that the aluminum tubes were properly flagged for possible nuclear application. The only part of Powell’s nuclear presentation that falls down in hindsight is the extent to which Iraq sought fissile material.
ISG confirmed Powell’s view on Iraq’s ceasefire-proscribed missile development.
On terrorism, Powell does speak at length with inordinate focus on Zarqawi.
[Update: Analysis of the Zarqawi issue is included in this exceptionally detailed write-up of the Saddam-al Qaeda relationship. Basically, the Bush administration was again substantively correct on the issue, if not predictively precise in the details.]
However, the Iraqi Perspectives Project [IPP] confirmed Powell’s main point that “Iraq and terrorism go back decades” and validated Powell’s warning about “the potentially much more sinister nexus between Iraq and the Al Qaida terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder”.
IPP also confirmed the “regional and global” (IPP) scope of Saddam’s terrorism.
While Powell emphasized the Saddam-AQ link with inordinate focus on Zarqawi, he did not define Saddam’s terrorism exclusively with the Saddam-AQ link:
And the record of Saddam Hussein’s cooperation with other Islamist terrorist organizations is clear … Terrorism has been a tool used by Saddam for decades. Saddam was a supporter of terrorism long before these terrorist networks had a name. And this support continues. The nexus of poisons and terror is new. The nexus of Iraq and terror is old. The combination is lethal.Various human rights organizations (I refer mainly to the UN Commission on Human Rights due to their regular reference to UNSCR 688) confirmed Powell’s view of Saddam’s humanitarian violations.
ISG confirmed Powell’s view of Saddam’s WMD intent. ISG: “we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted … the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities.”
Finally, Powell was correct that “We wrote 1441 to give Iraq one last chance” and “Iraq is not so far taking that one last chance.”