Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

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July 28, 2003

Niger-Iraq Fissile Material Issue Escalates; More Expected

Analysis. With input from GIS stations in Africa and elsewhere. The escalation in the US and UK media over the US Administration’s “withdrawal” of remarks concerning Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium for its weapons program from Niger seems set to have some further ramifications, which could confirm the initial reports that Iraq did, indeed, attempt such acquisitions, but not alone.

GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily sources said that denials of the matter, made by Niger Prime Minister Hama Hamadou in an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, of London, and published on July 27, 2003, were disingenuous. Prime Minister Hamadou also challenged UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to produce evidence that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger. Prime Minister Blair has maintained his position, first made public in a British Government dossier, that Iraq tried to buy uranium for nuclear weapons from Niger, even though the allegation, in the words of the BBC, “has been widely discredited”.

The “discrediting” was based on the fact that the documents originally cited by US Pres. George W. Bush on the matter were later found to have been forged. However, the matter of who forged the documents, and why, has yet to come to light. The UN said that the claim was based on forged documents but the UK says it has a different source which substantiates the claim. 

A number of African intelligence agencies were also believed to have additional intelligence substantiating the Iraqi (and other) attempts. Significant new intelligence on this matter was expected by early August 2003. However, in the meantime, a number of US Democratic Presidential candidates were attempting to discredit the entire Bush rationale for the war against Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein, based on the fact that the forged documents had appeared.

In the meantime, the Government of Niger now seemed caught in a difficult position, attempting to play down the issue in order to avoid US pressures. This now seems unlikely, and the question of how its principal guardian in the region, Nigeria, acts on the matter will also come under scrutiny in Washington and London: the political strengths of US Pres. George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair are now involved.