- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2003

TEL AVIV — An Israeli reserve brigadier general has called for an investigation of the role his country’s intelligence community played in overstating the threat of Saddam Hussein’s unconventional arsenal before the Iraq war.

Arguing that the United States and Britain also exaggerated the threat from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, the general said in a research paper, “The third party in this intelligence failure, Israel, has remained in the shadows.”

“Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British intelligence,” wrote Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, now a fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies. He said Israel should investigate the handling of the prewar intelligence reports.

The reserve officer wrote that Israel need not apologize for the outcome of the war because the benefits of wiping out Iraq’s hostile regime greatly outweighed the costs. But he cautioned against using that as an excuse for avoiding the inquiry.

The call for an investigation was taken up by Yossi Sarid, a parliament member from the left-wing Meretz party who already has complained that a decision to place the country on high alert during the war had sown public alarm and led to the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We’ve lost credibility both domestically and internationally” by exaggerating the threat, Mr. Sarid said. “If we now come with grave data about Iran’s arming with weapons of mass destruction, who is going to take us seriously? They might say, ‘It’s hard to believe you because you exaggerated about Iraq.’”

According to Gen. Brom’s analysis, Israel had failed to consider seriously the possibility that Iraq had been largely disarmed by international inspectors and had put development plans on hold out of fear of the United States.

He blamed this on three factors: an oversimplified conception of Saddam as “the embodiment of evil,” sloppy analysis of Iraqi capabilities, and 30 years of anxiety caused by the military’s failure to anticipate the start of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Gen. Brom also criticized the intelligence community’s prediction that Saddam would launch weapons of mass destruction against Israel if he felt his regime was in danger of being overrun. Gen. Brom said that theory underestimated the Iraqi president’s desire to survive a U.S. attack.

His analysis suggests that Israel might have downplayed its assessment that Iran posed a bigger threat than Iraq to fall into line with the United States. But he ruled out the likelihood of any kind of deliberate political manipulation of intelligence.

Gen. Brom, a former chief of the Israeli army’s strategic-planning division, said his analysis was based entirely on public information about the strategic picture before the war.

“Friendly intelligence services exchange assessments. And in this case, there was a harmony of opinions. Everyone thought the same way,” Gen. Brom said yesterday.

“There was a case of mutual reinforcement. People in the Israeli intelligence felt good that the Americans thought the same way, and the opposite was true.”

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