Gates says intelligence on Iraq before gulf war was quite wrong


WASHINGTON -- CIA Director Robert M. Gates conceded yesterday that his agency misjudged Iraq's intentions in 1989 when it concluded that Saddam Hussein's regime possed no threat to its neighbors for the next several years.

Intelligence experts believed that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, "having just concluded a 10-year war against Iran . . . would focus on rebuilding internally," Mr. Gates told a House committee.

"We provided a message of reassurance in terms of Saddam, and we were wrong," he said.

Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, and the United States, under the United Nations flag, went to war six months later.

The CIA also underestimated "both the scale and the pace" of Iraq's nuclear program, Mr. Gates said.

His testimony came amid renewed warnings from Democratic lawmakers that they plan to make a political issue of the Bush administration's support for Iraq in the years leading up to the Persian Gulf war.

Yesterday's hearing was held to consider a bill proposed by Banking Committee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat, that would block the United States from giving money to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other agencies if they aided countries developing nuclear weapons.

The committee plans to question other top administration officials about support for Iraq in two public hearings later this month.

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