Tuesday :: Aug 16, 2005

Q&A with former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV: Part 2

by eriposte


Before reading Amb. Joseph Wilson's responses in this email interview/Q&A (Part 2), you might find it useful to read my introductory post: "Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV: The significance of his July 2003 op-ed" and the Q&A with former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV: Part 1. Those posts provide much of the essential background needed to understand both, the "uranium from Africa" issue, and Wilson's responses to some of my questions.

Mr. Wilson's responses are reproduced verbatim except for minor corrections of typos/punctuations. Below some of Mr. Wilson's responses, I have added editorial commentary of my own (added after receiving Wilson's responses) to provide more clarity. My commentary is enclosed in [square brackets].

I conclude this 2-part email interview with a detailed Appendix at the bottom of this post, where I discuss the reported meetings involving Iraqi or Nigerien officials that were alleged to have something to do with Iraq seeking uranium from Africa. Shrewd readers know what this analysis is likely to show, but I encourage you to check it out all the same because it puts together all in one place a detailed response to some of the fevered talking points regarding Wilson's Niger trip from the Bushies and their supporters.

PART 2 OF THE INTERVIEW (click here for Part 1)

eriposte @ The Left Coaster (TLC), Q11: In your report back to the CIA, you referred to your conversation with former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki. The Senate Report said, in the context of this conversation, that:

Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, [redacted] businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales.

Did Mayaki indicate where this meeting occurred? Was it in Niger? Also, is there any reason to ascribe any credibility or certainty to Mr. Mayaki's belief? Even if this meeting with this businessman actually occurred, could "expanding commercial relations" be a reference to Iraq's interest in selling Niger some petroleum products (which, incidentally, the Iraq Survey Group discovered was the basis of a 2001 trip by a Nigerien delegation to Iraq)?

Amb. Wilson: Mayaki met with the Iraqi delegation (specifically the Iraqi who at the time of the second Gulf war was the Minister of Information, known to Americans as Baghdad Bob) in Algiers on the margins of an international meeting.  He met with them at the request of a Nigerien businessman.  Mayaki, who earlier had served as Foreign Minister, recounted to me that he immediately wondered if uranium would be on the agenda and was determined to avoid the topic in the meeting because, as he pointed out, uranium sales would violate UN sanctions.  A country as dependent on foreign assistance for its very survival, Niger could literally not afford to offend the international community, even if it wanted to, he noted.  The subject of uranium was never raised in the meeting.  Indeed, it was nothing more than a courtesy call.  Mayaki did not mention whether other commercial issues might have been raised, though it is common knowledge that Iraq often tried to leverage cheap oil for better relations.

[Eriposte comments: The significance of this question and Wilson's response is explained in the Appendix at the bottom of this post. One of the points I discuss further in the Appendix is that warmongers and Wilson-bashers made a habit of claiming that buying uranium would have been Iraq's only commercial interest with Niger, even though it was obvious that the real interest could have been to sell oil products to Niger (among other possibilities). Wilson's response is consistent with this. (This kind of reminds me of Condoleezza Rice's famous lie that the (dual-use) aluminum tubes Iraq was buying was only suitable for use in nuclear equipment. Moreover, it's interesting that the Right's obsession with the Iraq/UN oil-for-food scandal seems to have created selective amnesia in this case about Iraq's oil.)]

TLC, Q12: The other aspect you reported back to the CIA based on your conversation with Mr. Mayaki was this:

The former ambassador [Wilson] said that Mayaki did meet with the Iraqi delegation but never discussed what was meant by "expanding commercial relations." The former ambassador said that because Mayaki was wary of discussing any trade issues with a country under United Nations (UN) sanctions, he made a successful effort to steer the conversation away from a discussion of trade with the Iraqi delegation.

Did Mayaki indicate when and where this meeting occurred, especially considering there was no evidence for such a delegation visiting Iraq and Mr. Mayaki later denied that he met an Iraqi delegation in 1999? Was the original reference related to his meeting someone at Algiers in July 1999? Further, could the denial have been a reference to not having met a delegation in Niger? This is important since the Butler Report did not consider the Algiers meeting to be of significance from a uranium perspective. Can you shed some more light on his original statement and his subsequent denial?

Amb. Wilson: The meeting with the Iraqi delegation took place in Algiers.  Mayaki did not meet with Ambassador Wissam Al Zahawie when the latter traveled to Niger. Again, the subject of uranium did not come up in the meeting in Algiers.  And that was duly reported.

[Eriposte comments: The significance of this question and Wilson's response is explained in the Appendix at the bottom of this post. One of the points I discuss further in the Appendix is that the meeting in Algiers was not considered by the British to have anything to do with uranium. Wilson's response is consistent with this.]

TLC, Q13: Continuing on from the previous question, if we exclude Algiers and hypothetically assume that Mayaki did in fact secretly meet an Iraqi trade delegation sometime on or after June 1999 (as the Senate Report/CIA seems to have inferred), Mayaki's claim still appears to be completely implausible. An Iraqi delegation that came all the way at great cost and secrecy to discuss trade/uranium, ostensibly returns back to their home country without even bringing up the matter of "trade" let alone "uranium", simply because their host had the gift of steering conversations to topics (other than "trade") that the delegation never came there to discuss?? Is this really something that the CIA could have considered plausible? Could anyone with a straight face really have claimed this supported the "uranium from Africa" claim?

Amb. Wilson: To the best of my knowledge the only Iraqi to travel to Niger was Zahawie, who went to several West and Central African countries to invite their leaders to travel to Baghdad in violation of the sanctions.

[Eriposte comments: The significance of this question and Wilson's response is explained in the Appendix at the bottom of this post. One of the points I discuss further in the Appendix is that not only did a meeting between Mayaki and an Iraqi delegation not occur in Niger, even if such a meeting occurred, the story of the alleged uranium seeking effort makes no logical sense.]

TLC, Q14: The Senate Report makes it clear that the CIA started to seriously backtrack from the uranium from Africa claim even before the ostensible receipt of the forged Niger documents from the Italian journalist. They seemed to show little or no interest in examining the Niger documents when a copy was handed to them by an INR analyst, despite the fact that this would have been considered a smoking gun for the claims that sent you to Niger. A Washington Post article suggested that the CIA got some communication from Italian intelligence prior to September 22, 2002, which may have caused the major shift in their stance. Do you think that the CIA probably knew that the original intel they got from the Italians was based on forged documents, even before the documents were passed on to the U.S. by the Italian journalist?

Amb. Wilson: I have no idea, but it is clear from the Senate report that both the Senate and the White House were told in October 2002, nearly four months before the State of the Union address, that the American intelligence community did not believe the British assertion of an Iraqi effort to purchase uranium from “Africa” (a British parliamentary inquiry confirmed that the African country in question was Niger).  If the assertion contained in the documents were determined to be false, then the documents making the assertion had to be false as well.

[Eriposte comments: As I have discussed in the Appendix of this post, the British claim on Iraq's alleged attempts to seek uranium from Africa, like the U.S. claim, were based solely on Niger and not some other favorite African country of the day of the GOP (or Bob Somerby). Moreover, the wealth of data relating to the British claim leads to the conclusion that their Niger claim was also based on the forged Niger documents in some form or another.]

TLC, Q15. The Senate Report had a curious paragraph relating to your trip:

Third, the former ambassador noted that his CIA contacts told him there were documents pertaining to the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium transaction and that the source of the information was the [redacted] intelligence service. The DO reports officer told Committee staff that he did not provide the former ambassador with any information about the source or details of the original reporting as it would have required sharing classified information and, noted that there were no "documents" circulating in the IC at the time of the former ambassador's trip, only intelligence reports from [] intelligence regarding an alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal. Meeting notes and other correspondence show that details of the reporting were discussed at the February 19, 2002 meeting, but none of the meeting participants recall telling the former ambassador the source of the report [redacted]

I found the use of the, shall I say, Clintonian phrase -- "none of the meeting participants recall" - somewhat suggestive. More importantly, do you think there is something significant in the fact that the word documents is enclosed in quotes ("") in the response of the DO reports officer. Is it indicative that they may have been indulging in some legalese here about what kind of information they had or did not have at the time they spoke to you?

Amb. Wilson: When I was briefed at the CIA, I was made to believe that a US agent had either seen or been briefed on the existence of the documents.  It was not clear which.  I do not recall whether the foreign intelligence service that had provided the information was mentioned in the briefing, but I do know that I never mentioned the foreign service before it became public knowledge in a Seymour Hersh article in March, 2003, and then only in reference to that article.

[Eriposte comments: I wrote back to Amb. Wilson on his response asking him to clarify what seemed like a possible disconnect between his response and what the Senate Report said - on whether he had been told about the foreign intelligence service (FIS) by his CIA briefer(s).

Amb. Wilson responded as follows:

I may have told the Senate staff the name of the country. My recollection at the time was that the country was named in the briefing but I may have been mistaken. The briefing took place in February 2002, my first meeting with the Senate staff took place in June of 2003. Others who were at the meeting said that the name of the country did not come up. They could be right, or they could be wrong. I could as well. But, by the time of my meeting with the Senate staff, June 2003, Italy had been named publicly for several months.

Eriposte comments: This is reasonable. When Amb. Wilson testified to the Senate Committee he thought he was told about the FIS, but the CIA did not remember doing this. Amb. Wilson's clarification suggests that based on what the Senate Report said, he is also not certain now as to whether he was told about the FIS. More importantly though, the point of my question was to explore whether the CIA might have had some documentation prior to the Wilson trip that would have made it clear (upon reasonable analysis) that the intel was bogus.]

TLC, Q16: Do you have any thoughts on who might have been behind the forged Niger documents? Are there some avenues here which you think need to be explored that aren't being explored today?

Amb. Wilson: I have read all the speculation, but have nothing to add other than other speculation which may or may not be worth the paper it is printed on.  It is an important issue and I hope the FBI will crack the case.

TLC, Q17: Based on your knowledge of the workings of the intelligence community (IC), do you find it plausible that even after INR made it clear that the Niger documents were dubious and likely forgeries, that the information did not get properly disseminated within U.S. intelligence circles, as the Bush administration has claimed?

Amb. Wilson: I believe the information would have been disseminated but it is possible, I suppose that the information was discounted or overlooked in the intelligence community. Too bad.

[Eriposte comments: The reason for this question is obvious. As I have commented earlier:

However, what is clear is that the CIA (esp. in the United States) could not have received the copies [of the forged Niger documents] from the [U.S.] embassy prior to October 9, 2002. Yet, in a mysterious twist to the CIA's earlier position on the "uranium from Africa" claim, between October 2, 2002 and October 6, 2002 - prior to the CIA's ostensibly seeing the forged documents - top players in the CIA (including the Deputy DCI and the DCI) personally made efforts to try and dissuade the White House, and strongly so, from including the "uranium from Africa" claim in speeches.

Clearly, this raises the question as to what the CIA knew even before they ostensibly received a copy of the forged documents, that changed their minds regarding the "uranium from Africa" claim.

...it is indeed strange that the CIA, which ostensibly received what were supposed to be authentic validations of claims almost identical to what they had been hearing for almost a year from the foreign intelligence service (FIS-A), did not even think these were worth looking into or reviewing, considering that these documents might have given them the firm documentary proof in their own hands for the "uranium from Africa" claim. (Remember, the CIA kept claiming that they did not know the documents were forgeries until after the IAEA exposed them in March 2003.)

In other words, we are led to believe that when faced with the ostensible first-hand proof for a deal that matched in most particulars the information received from FIS-A over the previous 12 months, the CIA's response was "hey, it's not that important folks"? Talk about the dog that did not bark!

The CIA started to walk away from the Niger claim even before they supposedly received (in October 2002) the potentially smoking gun documents proving that deal, then they claimed that they somehow never figured out that the documents were bogus when they received it (and only learnt they were forgeries in March 2003) and yet, they showed no interest in the documents when they got a hold of them in October 2002 despite the fact that - if they were not bogus - they would have been the definitive first hand proof for the Niger uranium claims. So this story doesn't add up at all.]

TLC, Q18: Do you find it interesting or suspicious that the first intel report on Niger (clearly from the same set of forged documents) was received by the CIA barely a month after 9/11/01?

Amb. Wilson: Interesting. I had not thought of it in those terms, but it is clear that in the days immediately following 9/11 elements of the administration were actively pushing for war with Iraq.

TLC, Q19: Did former DCI George Tenet (or any representative speaking on his behalf) ever write to or call your wife to offer regrets or apologies for her outing by Tenet's colleagues in the Bush administration?

Amb. Wilson: Neither Valerie, nor I have spoken to Tenet since well before the leak.  Valerie had two conversations with senior Agency officials after the leak. Nobody from the White House has reached out to apologize either. On the contrary, Republicans from Senator Roberts to Representative Peter King, have tried to assert that this was our fault, with King going so far as to say she “got what she deserved.” In fact, even though the first President Bush, in 1999, called those who would expose clandestine sources the “most insidious of traitors”, not a single Republican of national stature has stood up to say what Rove did in leaking her identity to Time reporter Matt Cooper, was wrong.

TLC, Q20: Do you have any other thoughts, comments or updates that you'd like to share with the readers of The Left Coaster?

Amb. Wilson: Keep up the good work.  The Blogs have become an important source of information and analysis as the Mainstream media flounders.

[Eriposte comments: Thank you Amb. Wilson, especially for taking the time to respond to all my questions!]


Eriposte comments: Readers unfamiliar with the details of Wilson's Niger trip may not necessarily understand the significance of questions 11-13. You may find it helpful to first read my post on the Wilson trip to understand why I asked those questions, but at a high level, the meetings (or alleged meetings) described in the questions played an important role in both the British and U.S. claims of Iraq's seeking uranium from Africa. Essentially there are three meetings of primary interest - the first one being critical to the British claim and the latter two having been painted as supportive of the CIA's claim until the CIA discarded their claim no later than early October 2002:

A. The visit to Niger by Iraq's Wissam Al-Zahawie in February 1999 as part of a visit to a number of African countries for the sole purpose of inviting them to visit Iraq to try to weaken the U.N. sanctions regime
B. The meeting between Niger's Ibrahim Mayaki and a Nigerien businessman, apparently in June 1999
C. The visit by an Iraqi delegation to Algiers in July 1999 as part of the Organization of African Unity meeting, where the delegation met with one or more Nigerien officials, among many others

There is also a fourth meeting that is interestingly not mentioned in the declassified portion of the Senate Report, or in the Butler Report - but is mentioned sans classification in the report by the Iraq Survey Group (that came out a few months after the other two reports). If you read to the end of this Appendix there's a good chance you'll figure out why that was the case.

D. A meeting between a Ugandan businessman and Iraqis, where the businessman offered to sell uranium (supposedly from the Congo) to the Iraqis.

In the following, I provide an analysis of each of these meetings showing why the claims of Saddam seeking uranium from Africa (Niger), based on one or more of these meetings, were baseless.

A. The visit to Niger by Iraq's Wissam Al-Zahawie in February 1999 as part of a visit to a number of African countries for the sole purpose of inviting them to visit Iraq to try to weaken the U.N. sanctions regime

This visit is important in the context of the SOTU claim because this was the sole piece of evidence mentioned in the Butler Report's conclusions as having formed the basis of the British claim (see here for proof that the British claim was based only on Niger) that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa (note that the concluding section of the Butler report does not use the term "significant quantities" on the uranium from Africa issue; I consider this to be potentially significant but I won't explore that here).

However multiple factors make it clear that the British claim was false, as I have discussed at length in a previous post on the Butler Report. In brief:

1. This trip which was well known in intelligence circles prior to 2002, it had nothing to do with uranium -- and the IAEA pointed this out to the U.S. and the U.K. prior to the start of the Iraq invasion in early March 2003. So, the British Government's continued peddling of this visit as credible, conclusive proof for the uranium claim (based on supposedly "classified" intelligence they would not share - which is false, see #3 below), even after the March 2003 IAEA response, was simply nonsensical.

2. As I've pointed out, the Butler Report's conclusions state (emphasis mine):

503. From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence was credible.

The last sentence is deliberately misleading. The reference to Niger's exports conveniently excluded Iraq's exports (oil/petroleum products) which could easily have been a justification for Iraq-Niger contacts.

Indeed, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) which also examined the "uranium from Africa" claim (and found it baseless) said:

Regarding specific allegations of uranium pursuits from Niger, Ja’far claims that after 1998 Iraq had only two contacts with Niamey—neither of which involved uranium. Ja’far acknowledged that Iraq’s Ambassador to the Holy See traveled to Niamey to invite the President of Niger to visit Iraq. He indicated that Baghdad hoped that the Nigerian President would agree to the visit as he had visited Libya despite sanctions being levied on Tripoli. Former Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See Wissam Zahawie has publicly provided a similar account.

  • Ja’far claims a second contact between Iraq and Niger occurred when a Nigerian minister visited Baghdad around 2001 to request assistance in obtaining petroleum products to alleviate Niger’s economic problems [eRiposte emphasis]. During the negotiations for this contract, the Nigerians did not offer any kind of payment or other quid pro quo, including offering to provide Iraq with uranium ore, other than cash in exchange for petroleum.
  • ISG recovered a copy of a crude oil contract dated 26 June 2001 that, although unsigned, appears to support this arrangement.

The point of my reproducing the ISG extract is that warmongers and Wilson-bashers made a habit of claiming that buying uranium would have been Iraq's only commercial interest with Niger, even though it was obvious that the real interest could have been to sell oil products to Niger (among other possibilities). Wilson's response to Q11 is consistent with this. The fact that the Butler Report defined the credibility of the Niger (Africa) uranium allegation based on Niger's exports alone obviously shows their conclusion was untenable.

3. It is clear that the British Government was lying to the public about the source and credibility of their Niger intelligence (the Feb 1999 visit), as manifest in their self-contradictory claims.

  • Did the intelligence come from multiple sources? No, it did not.
  • Did it come from the British themselves? Apparently not since they claimed that it came from a foreign intelligence service (FIS) and asserted dubiously that, therefore, further information about it could not be shared.
  • Did the mysterious foreign intelligence service that the British sourced the Feb 1999 intel to, share that intel with the IAEA before the start of the war? Yes they did, regardless of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's denial.
  • Did the CIA communicate its lack of confidence in the credibility of the intel to the British before the British White Paper was published in September 2002? Yes, even though the British Government tried to mislead the public by suggesting there were no challenges to the credibility of their intel prior to the publishing of the White Paper and the IAEA review.

All, in all, if the intelligence was clean and credible, there should be no reason for all these contradictory, deceptive or false claims. Most importantly, the IAEA had debunked the British claim as well as the supporting intelligence sourced to one or more countries by the British (the same intel that they claim they could not reveal).

4. The IAEA's comments in 2004 indicates that all the Niger intelligence cited by the British ultimately relied on the same forged Niger documents, despite the British denials. Here is a repeat of those comments cited by British Labor MP Lynne Jones:

4.48. ....On 25 May 2004, Mark Gwozdecky, Spokesperson and Director Division of Public Information (MTPI) of the IAEA responded as follows:

I can confirm to you that we have received information from a number of member states regarding the allegation that Iraq sought to acquire uranium from Niger. However, we have learned nothing which would cause us to change the conclusion we reported to the United Nations Security Council on March 7, 2003 with regards to the documents assessed to be forgeries and have not received any information that would appear to be based on anything other than those documents.

As I have discussed earlier, there is separate, credible evidence that supports the observation that even the 1999 Niger visit cited by the British was almost certainly based on the same forged Niger documents. As I briefly mentioned in my detailed review of the uranium intelligence on Niger, received by the CIA (where I showed that there was only one set of Niger documents, that they were forged, that they were the basis of the intel that sent Joseph Wilson to Niger, etc.), reader Pat Conway made some observations on one of the forged (Niger uranium) documents in the context of the Al-Zahawie visit:

Doc 2: Get Zahawie’s Answer has different idiosyncrasies than Docs 3, 4 and 5. First of all, the name of the government on the letterhead has changed. While Doc 4 refers to the “Conseil Militaire Supreme”, Doc 2 has the “Conseil de Reconciliation Nationale”. The name of the foreign ministry has been updated. “Et De La Cooperation” in Doc 4 has been replaced by “Et De L’Integration Africaine” in Doc 2. The seal of the foreign ministry has also changed (note the placing of the little shield) and a coat of arms has been added to the top of the page. Most importantly, they’ve changed the name of the foreign minister. Instead of Allele Habibou, Doc 2 claims to be signed by Nassirou Sabo.

Close, Cabal, but no cigar! While Sabo was Niger’s foreign minister in October 2000, like the first FIS report says, Doc 2 is dated 30 July 1999. The late nineties, it seems, was a choppy period for the Nigerien foreign ministry. In 1999, the foreign minister was Aichatou Mindaoudou. Sabo did not get the job until January 2000. Another difference is that Doc 2 has the uranium agreement signed on the 28 June 2000, whereas Docs 3, 4 and 5 have it signed more than a week later on the 5-6 July.

So I think that while Docs 3, 4 and 5 were forged sometime before the first FIS report in October 2001, Doc 2 was definitely forged later, probably before the second report in February and after the Cabal had gotten some ‘feedback’.

The second FIS report is the first to implicate Iraqi ambassador Wissam al-Zahawie in the uranium deal. (Robb-Silberman p. 76) Doc 2 also ties Zahawie to the deal, whereas Docs 3, 4 and 5 don’t mention him. I think Doc 2 was forged so the FIS could ‘name-drop’ Zahawie into the second report and clue the CIA to the pre-existing intelligence on Zahawie’s 1999 Niger trip.

Pat's conjecture appears quite plausible and it is supported by the IAEA observation that all the evidence they received for the "uranium from Africa" claim from various countries (including the British) was linked to the forged documents in some form or another.

I have also pointed out that the CIA was aware that the Niger/Africa intel was not credible and likely dubious, and that, based on their behavior in response to the public emergence of the forged documents in October 2002, it was obvious they knew that the intel (and the source documents it was based on) was (were) not trustworthy, well before the SOTU (most likely prior to September 22, 2002). So, it is not surprising that they warned the British not to trust the intel. Thus, the British must have known (prior to Bush's SOTU) that their intel was not trustworthy. However, they kept peddling it nonetheless, probably to save face after their White Paper had been published in September 2002. After the Bush SOTU, the pressure on them to keep peddling their false claim must have been even higher, to provide (mythical) cover for Bush.

5. Over the space of a few days, the British changed the wording of their Iraq uranium claim in their September 2002 White Paper from "purchased" to "sought". This is more than just a technicality because the change was not based on any new intelligence - it was based on a reinterpretation of the same intelligence ("brokered with some difficulty with the originators") over a period of a few days. This should have set off a warning flag immediately to the Butler Committee and other committees, but they whitewashed it.

I say that because it defies common sense that intel which supposedly confirmed a deal having been signed, suddenly (over the course of a few days) got reinterpreted to state that uranium had only been sought, not purchased. Why would intel that indicated a sale be considered not credible, and yet the same intel (or other intel from the same source) be considered credible in the context of the "seeking" uranium claim? This doesn't pass the smell test. More importantly, this provides additional, independent support that the intel peddled by the British was all based on the forged Niger documents (just as this was the case with the CIA's intel).

[NOTE: Amb. Wilson has been criticized in some quarters under the guise that he may have, at best, debunked the claim that uranium was purchased by Iraq from Niger, but not that uranium was merely "sought". This is basically the same nonsense that the British resorted to and it makes no sense. First of all, even if Wilson did not state this explicitly in his initial op-ed, it was implicit that he found no evidence that uranium was even "sought". Moreover, the wealth of information available to us shows that all roads led to the same Niger documents - so if one critical piece of the uranium allegations from a source was bogus, there is no reason to think some other uranium allegation (on Iraq and Niger) from that same source (e.g., the Zahawie visit and its alleged link to uranium) was trustworthy, especially considering that the British conveniently changed their interpretation of the same intelligence - from "purchased" to "sought" - over a few days.]

6. Finally, as I've also discussed before, even if we ignore the details of the British Government's deceptions and manipulation of intelligence on the "uranium from Africa" claim, a straightforward reading of Bush's SOTU claim shows why it was false. Here are the exact words used by George W. Bush in the 2003 State of the Union (SOTU):

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa

The word "learned" implies two things. First, that the British had credible, believable evidence, that Saddam recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Second, that the U.S. trusted the British claim. This latter part is obvious because Bush did not say that the British "claimed...", but rather that the British had "learned...".

The discussion above (and here) showed that the British government, in reality, learned no such thing. The British claimed (i.e., asserted) that Saddam sought uranium from Africa, but a reasonably critical review of their claims reveals them to be mere assertions (bunk); indeed, the evidence makes it clear that the British Government made numerous false or misleading claims in order to peddle their so-called evidence.

The fact is, the CIA did not consider the British intel to be credible and they said so repeatedly prior to the Bush 2003 State of the Union (SOTU). INR had always considered the uranium claim to not be credible. So, Bush's SOTU statement was false since he was confidently endorsing a claim that our own intelligence agencies had discarded as not being credible. In other words, if A knew B was peddling something that is not credible and therefore discarded B's claims, for A to later claim that we trust B because B trusts itself is the height of dishonesty. Either you trust B or you don't. Both cannot simultaneously be true.


Iraqi Wissam Al-Zahawie's visit to Niger in Feb 1999 had nothing to do with uranium. The CIA clearly knew this well before the Bush 2003 SOTU and the British must have known this around the same time (if not earlier). The discussion above provides several points of evidence that lead to the conclusion that the British claim was false. Moreover, the Iraq Survey Group and the Senate (SSCI) Report did not find evidence to support the claim that Saddam Hussein was in fact seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

B. The meeting between Niger's Ibrahim Mayaki and a Nigerien businessman, apparently in June 1999

This meeting, in itself, offered no proof whatsoever that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. Even if this meeting had occurred, it only proved that a Nigerien businessman asked a Nigerien official (Mayaki) to meet with an Iraqi delegation regarding "expanding commercial relations". This phrase could easily have been a reference to oil sales (among other things) - as I have disccused above. Amb. Wilson's response to Q11 does not rule out this possibility either. After all, the Nigerien businessman never mentioned uranium and any assumption about uranium was solely in the mind of Mayaki (if that).


This meeting in itself, could not have constituted credible evidence to support the claim that Iraq was seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa. So, any attempts by Wilson-bashers to spin this meeting as somehow offering credible evidence supporting the "uranium from Africa" claim is nonsensical.

C. The visit by an Iraqi delegation to Algiers in July 1999 as part of the Organization of African Unity meeting, where the delegation met with one or more Nigerien officials, among many others

As the Q&A with Wilson makes it clear, Mayaki said that he met with some Iraqi officials in Algiers, not in Niger. The Algiers visit was ignored by the Butler Report; the report set aside this trip because the British were convinced it had nothing to do with uranium. So, in a nutshell this meeting could not have been proof for the uranium from Africa claim.

Having said that, let's also look at this from a different perspective.

The Senate Report is somewhat ambiguous about where and when this visit/meeting occurred, although it seems to imply that it occurred in Niger. The Report says (emphasis mine, as always):

The former ambassador [Wilson] said that Mayaki did meet with the Iraqi delegation but never discussed what was meant by "expanding commercial relations." The former ambassador said that because Mayaki was wary of discussing any trade issues with a country under United Nations (UN) sanctions, he made a successful effort to steer the conversation away from a discussion of trade with the Iraqi delegation. [page 44]

Later, the Senate Report says:

The reports officer...said he judged that the most important fact in the report was that the Nigerien officials admitted that the Iraqi delegation had traveled there in 1999, and that the Nigerien Prime Minister believed the Iraqis were interested in purchasing uranium, because this provided some confirmation of foreign government service reporting. [page 46]

Because of the undue importance given by some in the CIA (and by Wilson-bashers) to this alleged meeting, and the Bushies' attempt after Wilson's op-ed to spin this alleged meeting and Mayaki's comments as having undermined Wilson's claim that his trip to Niger proved there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium from Niger, I discussed this at length previously to show why the interpretation/conclusion of the CIA made no sense. So, let us recap some of the key points from my earlier post (with some comments added).

A post by Dr Z at Daily Kos had noted some facts consistent with Wilson's response to Q11 - Q13:

The Nigerian PM Mayaki did not meet an Iraqi delegation or a trade mission, but met with the then Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf (known post-2001 as the Iraqi Information minister, a.k.a. "Comical Ali" or "Baghdad Bob").

There was a summit of the Organization of African Unity in Algiers from Jul 12 to Jul 14, 1999. Niger's PM Mayaki was there as Niger was a member, along with 52 other African country-members; the Secretary General of the UN was also attending. This was the 35th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity.

Iraqi's FM was there as an observer. He did not only meet with the Niger's PM. He also met with the Secretary General in the afternoon of July 13, as well as, for example, with the FM of Egypt on July 10 or 11, as can be seen from this cached page

The meeting did not discuss uranium or trade.

Dates are very important here and so are locations. Did Mayaki say he met with the "Iraqi delegation" in June 1999? Or did he only meet the "businessman" in June 1999 and the Iraqi delegation at some other time? The Senate Report is ambiguous on this. However, Wilson's responses make it clear that Mayaki did not meet an Iraqi delegation in Niger after June 1999, and he only met an Iraqi delegation in Algiers in July 1999 (in a meeting that the British did not consider to have anything to do with uranium).

In fact, there was/is no evidence of any Iraqi delegation ever having visited Niger in June 1999 or later in 1999. Mayaki himself, categorically denied that he ever met an Iraqi delegation in Niger in 1999-2001. As the BBC reported in 2004, shortly after the Senate Report was released (link thanks to Dr Z):

Mr Mayaki denies allegations in the Senate report that he admitted meeting a delegation from Iraq in 1999.

The report says that he expected to discuss uranium with the Iraqi delegation but managed to steer the conversation in another direction.

But Mr Mayaki now says he has no recollection of such a meeting, while he was in government from 1999-2001.

"I think this could be easily verified by the Western intelligence services and by the authorities in Niger," he said.

Let's take another step. Let us postulate that Mayaki hypothetically met with a mysterious Iraqi trade delegation in Niger at some other point in 1999. As I pointed out previously, even if this had been the case (and it was not the case), the story narrated by Mayaki to Wilson would make no sense in that context. Why? Well, Mayaki would have had to have met a secret (after all there's no public record of it) Iraqi delegation in Niger, sometime on or after June 1999 - a trade delegation (to discuss "commercial relations") that never raised the issue of trade or uranium even once. Even if we are to assume that "he made a successful effort to steer the conversation away from a discussion of trade with the Iraqi delegation", to believe this bizarre story one would need to posit all of the following:
  • Iraq somehow spent a lot of money sending a delegation secretly all the way to Niger to make an attempt to purchase uranium or to "trade"
  • Once they arrived in Niger, they mysteriously never brought up the topic of trade or uranium, something they ostensible came all the way to "seek"
  • Mayaki holds a mysterious power over an entire Iraqi delegation, i.e. he is so persuasive, that a secret delegation which was there to discuss trade is quite happy to not discuss any trade and returns secretly back to Iraq
  • The Iraqis, who are daring enough to want to violate U.N. sanctions by trying to secretly approach Niger for a trade/uranium deal, are so afraid to even bring up the word trade or uranium on a trip intended solely to talk about it ("commercial relations")

This is not even a remotely plausible scenario. Put another way, only in the Orwellian world of George W. Bush and his neocons would a delegation that came all the way at great cost and secrecy to discuss trade/uranium, return back to their home country without even bringing up the matter of "trade" let alone "uranium", simply because their host had the gift of steering conversations to topics (other than "trade") that the delegation never came there to discuss.


So, what I have demonstrated here is that, any way you look at it, the Mayaki meeting with an Iraqi delegation had nothing to do with uranium.

D. A meeting between a Ugandan businessman and Iraqis, where the businessman offered to sell uranium (supposedly from the Congo) to the Iraqis.

This is a meeting that is not discussed in the unclassified portions of the Senate (SSCI) Report or the Butler Report. Let me recap (with some edits) what I said in one of my previous posts.

The Iraq Survey group said:

So far, ISG has found only one offer of uranium to Baghdad since 1991—an approach Iraq appears to have turned down. In mid-May 2003, an ISG team found an Iraqi Embassy document in the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) headquarters related to an offer to sell yellowcake to Iraq. The document reveals that a Ugandan businessman approached the Iraqis with an offer to sell uranium, reportedly from the Congo. The Iraqi Embassy in Nairobi—in reporting this matter back to Baghdad on 20 May 2001—indicated it told the Ugandan that Iraq does not deal with these materials, explained the circumstances of sanctions, and said that Baghdad was not concerned about these matters right now. Figure 1 is the translation of this document.

Considering that this document was found in mid-May 2003, wouldn't it have been nice if it had at least gotten a mention in the unclassified portion of the Senate (SSCI) Report and in the Butler Report?

As a reminder, here is what David Kay's Iraq Survey Group (ISG) found - Ivo Daalder summarized the relevant part from that report at TPM Cafe:

But this ignores the definitive judgement on the matter by the Iraqi Survey Group, which concluded as follows last September:

ISG has not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991 or renewed indigenous production of such material—activities that we believe would have constituted an Iraqi effort to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.

Note the emphasis on "sought uranium", not "bought uranium".


The ISG looked at the very same "intelligence" that was claimed to have earlier vindicated the positions of Bush (and Blair) and found that it showed no evidence that Saddam Hussein recently sought uranium from Africa. It is interesting that the unclassified portions of the Senate (SSCI) Report or the Butler Report did not mention this piece of intel.

All in all, the analysis in this Appendix (largely extracted from previous posts of mine) reiterates what must have been known to the Bush and Blair administrations well before the Bush 2003 SOTU. Wilson's and INR's interpretations of his findings from the Niger trip were correct. There was no credible evidence that Saddam Hussein had recently attempted to seek or purchased (significant quantities of) uranium from Africa (Niger).
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