After a two-year search, U.S. investigators officially wrapped their investigation for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq on Monday, stating the search "has been exhausted."
According to a final addendum report to the CIA filed by Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, no evidence of such weapons was ever found and there was no evidence that Iraq shipped weapons to hide in Syria before the U.S. invasion in 2003, The Associated Press reports. The Iraq Survey Group spent months examining documents, interviewing former Iraqi officials, examining previous intelligence reports and conducting on-site investigations, which were prompted when the weapons failed to materialize after the Iraq invasion. The belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction was the principal justification given by the Bush administration prior to the Iraq war.
The ISG found "no senior policy, program or intelligence officials who admitted any direct knowledge of such movement of WMD. They uniformly denied any knowledge of residual WMD that could have been secreted to Syria," Duelfer wrote. "[And] as matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible."
He also warned of potential future threats, including the possibility of Saddam Hussein's weapons experts finding work elsewhere: "While the danger remains that hostile foreign governments, terrorists or insurgents may seek Iraqi expertise, the subset of individuals who possess the unique skills ... is small. However, because a single individual can advance certain WMD activities, it remains an important concern."
The ISG also assessed that Iraqi and coalition forces will continue to discover "small numbers of degraded chemical weapons" that were likely misplaced, lost or abandoned by Hussein's regime during the Iran-Iraq war in 1991, but that any remaining chemical munitions left over do not possess a significant military threat since there are not enough of them to cause mass casualties. However, the report noted that if they were to get into insurgents' hands, "the use of a single even ineffectual chemical weapon would likely cause more terror than deadlier conventional explosives."
Though the survey group officially disbanded earlier this month, a U.S. official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said a small team is still operating in Iraq in order to continue examining documents and follow up on any further WMD reports, according to the AP.
The 92-page report posted online Monday comes as the final addendum to the 1,500-page Comprehensive Report on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction released on September 30.
In April, a presidential commission issued a scathing 618-page report noting that U.S. intelligence agencies were "dead wrong" in their judgment that Saddam Hussein carried weapons of mass destruction (see "U.S. Intelligence Was 'Dead Wrong' About WMDs, Report Says").