The defector whose claims that Iraq had biological weapons were used to justify the 2003 US invasion has admitted that he lied to help get rid of Saddam Hussein, the Guardian newspaper said Tuesday.
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials, told the BND, Germany’s secret service, that Iraq had mobile bioweapons trucks and had built clandestine factories.
Even after he went back on his story after being confronted with denials from another source, his former boss, the BND continued to take him seriously, he told The Guardian.
The false information formed the cornerstone of former US secretary of state Colin Powell’s key address to the United Nations on February 5, 2003.
During the speech, Powell described Janabi as “an Iraqi chemical engineer” who “supervised one of these facilities.”
“He actually was present during biological agent production runs and was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998,” Powell told the UN.
“Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right,” Janabi told the British newspaper.
“They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.
“I had to do something for my country, so I did this and I am satisfied because there is no dictator in Iraq any more,” he added.
The Iraq war resulted in more than 100,000 civilian deaths and destroyed the political reputations of the then US president George W. Bush, his defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and their ally British prime minister Tony Blair.
Rumsfeld admitted in memoirs released last week that he “made a misstatement” when he claimed Hussein had weapons of mass destruction sites round Baghdad and Tikrit.
Janabi told The Guardian he was “shocked” by Powell’s speech, but played down his role in the conflict.
“Powell didn’t say I was the only reason for war, he talked about three things: Uranium, Al-Qaeda in Iraq and my story (biological weapons),” he said.
And he accused the BND of having broken an agreement that they would not hand over his information to other countries.
A German official, named “Dr Paul,” approached Janabi in 2000 after identifying him as a Baghdad-trained chemical engineer with possible inside intelligence of former leader Hussein’s regime.
“He said it was very important, that Iraq had a dictator and I needed to help,” the defector told The Guardian.
Janabi, who fled Iraq in 1995, lied to the BND, telling them Hussein had acquired mobile bioweapons trucks and built weapons factories.
Later however, the BND confronted Janabi with a statement from Bassil Latif, his former boss at the Military Industries Commission in Iraq, who said there were no trucks or factories.
Janabi told the BND: “OK, when (Latif says) there no trucks then (there are none),” according to the paper.
Despite his admission, Janabi said security officials continued to take his claims seriously.
They told him in 2002 that his pregnant wife might not be allowed to join him in Germany if he refused to cooperate.
But the defector denied that he had lied to the BND in order to secure asylum, claiming he did it purely to topple Hussein.
“I was granted asylum on March 13, 2000. The story…had nothing to do with my asylum claim,” Janabi told the paper during a meeting in Germany.
“I had a problem with the Saddam regime, I wanted to get rid of him.
“I tell you something when I hear anybody, not just in Iraq but in any war, (is) killed, I am very sad. But give me another solution. Can you give me another solution?
“Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities,” he added.
Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief in Europe, said Janabi’s “fascinating” admissions “makes me feel better.”
“I think there are still a number of people who still thought there was something in that, even now,” Drumheller told The Guardian.