Saddam "believed Iran intended to annex southern Iraq", and that the perceived threat "was the major factor as to why he did not allow the return of UN inspectors to verify destruction of the weapons".
The US invaded Iraq partly due to the belief it had weapons of mass destruction [Reuters]
Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president, allowed the world to believe his country had weapons of mass destruction in an attempt to deter an Iranian invasion, an FBI file has revealed.
In 20 formal interviews and five “casual conversations” with George Piro, an FBI agent, Saddam said he considered Iran to be a bigger threat to Iraq than the US.
“Hussein believed that Iraq could not appear weak to its enemies, especially Iran,” the agent wrote in June 2004.
The former leader also said that Iraq had never co-operated with al Qaeda, nor met Osama bin Laden, its leader, who he described as a “zealot”.
He told the FBI the US had “used the 9/11 attack as a justification” to invade Iraq.
The details were among more than 100 pages of notes written by Piro after Saddam was found hiding in a “spider-hole” on a farm near Tikrit, his home town.
FBI releases notes from ‘Saddam files’
Piro wrote that Saddam “believed Iran intended to annex southern Iraq”, and that the perceived threat “was the major factor as to why he did not allow the return of UN inspectors to verify destruction of the weapons”.
Saddam fought a ruinous, eight-year war with Iran from 1980, during which Iraq used chemical weapons.
But he told the FBI that Iraq had destroyed all of its chemical and biological weapons long before the US invasion, and even said he considered seeking a security agreement with Washington as a protection against Iran.
The US and UK governments largely justified their invasion of Iraq on the belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and could readily deploy them.
The former Iraqi leader denied having unconventional weapons before the US invasion, but refused to allow UN inspectors to search his country from 1998 until 2002.
“By God, if I had such weapons, I would have used them in the fight against the United States,” he told Piro.
During the interviews, Saddam also denied reports that he used body doubles, saying the claim was “movie magic, not reality”.
He could only remember using the telephone twice since March 1990, and said he communicated mainly through couriers.
Saddam was executed in December 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity by an Iraqi court for the killing of 148 Shia men and boys following a 1982 assassination attempt.