Pre-war Iraq ‘not threat to UK’ former MI5 boss says

Iraq posed no threat to the UK when then prime minister Tony Blair took Britain to war in 2003, former MI5 boss Baroness Manningham-Buller has said.

In a Radio Times interview, Baroness Manningham-Buller said the service advised war was likely to increase the domestic threat and was a “distraction” from the pursuit of al-Qaeda.

But she said it was “for others to decide” whether the war was a mistake.

She told the Radio Times: “Iraq did not present a threat to the UK.

“The service advised that it was likely to increase the domestic threat and that it was a distraction from the pursuit of al-Qaeda. I understood the need to focus on Afghanistan. Iraq was a distraction.”

But she added: “Intelligence isn’t complete without the full picture and the full picture is all about doubt.”

Baroness Manningham-Buller also described Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as “a horror”.

“It’s very difficult - do you just stand by and watch people being murdered?”, she said, referring to military interventions.
Asked about Britain’s friendlier approach to Col Gaddafi in the recent past, she replied: “There was a point to cosying up to him, to get him to forfeit his stockpiles of WMD (weapons of mass destruction).

“It was the right thing to do. But yes, you do have to be aware of who you’re dealing with.”

She is delivering the second phase of this year’s Reith Lectures - which are being broadcast in September 2011 to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington DC.