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washingtonpost.com (Associated Press)
Former Israeli Intelligence Official Criticizes Israeli Assessments on Iraq
The Associated Press
Thursday, December 4, 2003; 11:43 AM
JERUSALEM -- A former Israeli intelligence officer charged Thursday that Israeli agencies produced a flawed picture of Iraqi weapons capabilities and substantially contributed to mistakes made in U.S. and British pre-war assessments on Iraq.
The comments of reserve Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom represented an unusual criticism of the Israeli intelligence community, long regarded as one of the world's best. Prior to his retirement in 1998, Brom served in Israeli military intelligence for 25 years, and acted as the deputy chief of planning for the Israeli army.
Career officers in Israel traditionally maintain close ties with military colleagues even after retirement. Brom's research was conducted under the aegis of Israel's leading strategic affairs think tank, Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Center.
Brom said he was directing his remarks at Military Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, and the Mossad intelligence agency.
The army declined to comment. The Mossad did not immediately return a message.
Brom first raised his concerns in a report, "The War in Iraq: An Intelligence Failure?" The article was published this week in "Strategic Assessment," the quarterly bulletin the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, where he works as a researcher.
American and British leaders used the purported existence of the weapons, including chemical and biological agents, as one of the main justifications for going to war with Iraq earlier this year.
Stuart A. Cohen, the vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, wrote last month that with all the evidence the U.S. government possessed, "no reasonable person could have ... reached any conclusions or alternative views that were profoundly different from those that we reached."
Cohen was the acting chairman of the council when he oversaw the production of a National Intelligence Estimate summarizing U.S. evidence on Iraq's alleged weapons programs, concluding that Iraq possessed prohibited biological and chemical weapons and missiles and was producing more.
Since ousting Saddam Hussein, the U.S.-led coalition's technical experts have continued a futile search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
"Israeli intelligence was a full partner with the U.S. and Britain in developing a false picture of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction capability," Brom said. "It badly overestimated the Iraqi threat to Israel and reinforced the American and British belief that the weapons existed."
Brom said a lack of professionalism and poor supervision were major reasons for the Israeli intelligence failure.
"Even if Iraq had any Scud missiles left, I can't understand how Israeli intelligence officers came to believe they threatened Israel, particularly when they hadn't been used in more than 10 years," Brom said. "It's a clear example of how an inability to think clearly is undermining the Israeli intelligence community."
Israeli leaders said on the eve of the Iraq war there was an outside chance that Saddam Hussein might arm Scud missiles with chemical or biological agents and attack the country. Partially based on the precedent of the 39 Iraqi Scuds that hit Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, the warning resulted in the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars and disrupted daily life.
Brom also cited the bitter memories of the 1973 Middle East War, when Israeli intelligence failed to anticipate an attack by Egypt and Syria, and the country suffered thousands of casualties.
"Israeli intelligence agencies have tended to overstate the threat the country faces ever since 1973," he said.
Following the publication of Brom's article, opposition lawmaker Yossi Sarid called for a parliamentary inquiry on the performance of Israeli intelligence services.
Sarid told Israel Radio the article proved that Israeli intelligence assessments on Iraq caused Israel considerable damage by compelling it to prepare for "threats that did not exist."