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MI5 Thought Hussein Would Launch WMD as Last Resort

(Jul. 20) -U.S. and allied forces search a suspected arms cache during a village clearance operation in Iraq last week. The invasion of Iraq increased the extremist threat against the West, a former top British intelligence official said today (Warrick Page/Getty Images). (Jul. 20) -U.S. and allied forces search a suspected arms cache during a village clearance operation in Iraq last week. The invasion of Iraq increased the extremist threat against the West, a former top British intelligence official said today (Warrick Page/Getty Images).

The United Kingdom's national intelligence service thought former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would only launch weapons of mass destruction against Western nations in a last-ditch attempt to save his regime, the former head of MI5 testified today (see GSN, July 13).

Former agency chief Eliza Manningham-Buller told a British inquiry investigating the nation's involvement in the Iraq war that domestic intelligence officers thought that preinvasion Iraq had some small capacity to launch terrorist strikes in the United Kingdom, the Associated Press reported. However, the intelligence service also thought Hussein would deploy his suspected biological and chemical weapons only "if he felt the survival of his regime was in doubt," she said.

Hussein would have rather used conventional means to attack Middle Eastern targets instead of committing terrorist acts, Manningham-Buller said (Associated Press/Examiner.com, July 20).

The Bush administration in Washington and Blair government in London made Iraq suspected WMD capabilities a key part of their case for the 2003 invasion. No operational WMD stockpiles or biological and chemical weapons production facilities were discovered in the last seven years.

Manningham-Buller said the regime in Baghdad did not constitute a great danger to the world and that the invasion that ended Hussein's rule had actually made things worse, the London Guardian reported.

Iraq posed a "very limited and containable" danger to the United Kingdom, she asserted. There was no significant concern before the war that Iraq could have helped militants acquire weapons of mass destruction for attacks on Western targets, according to Manningham-Buller.

"It certainly wasn't of concern in either the short term or the medium term to me or my colleagues," she said.

Manningham-Buller told the inquiry that there was also nothing to link Baghdad to the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, an opinion she said was also held by the CIA. This view prompted then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to establish a different intelligence agency (Haroon Siddique, London Guardian, July 20).

She added that "our involvement in Iraq radicalized, for want of a better word, a whole generation of young people -- not a whole generation, a few among a generation -- who saw our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as being an attack on Islam," the London Telegraph reported.

"Arguably we gave [al-Qaeda leader] Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad so that he was able to move into Iraq in a way that he was not before," she continued (Gordon Rayner, London Daily Telegraph, July 20).

The inquiry has already interviewed former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, among others. It is expected to issue its finding this year (Associated Press).

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