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Context of 'May 3, 2009: Britain’s Former Deputy Intelligence Chief Says Britain ‘Dragged’ into Iraq War ‘Against Our Better Judgment’'

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Eliza Manningham-Buller.Eliza Manningham-Buller. [Source: AFP / Getty Images]Despite the restrictions on air travel following the previous day’s attacks, one private plane is allowed to fly from Britain to the United States. On it are Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of the British secret intelligence service (MI6), and Eliza Manningham-Buller, the deputy chief of Britain’s domestic intelligence service, MI5. In his 2007 book At the Center of the Storm, CIA Director George Tenet will admit, “I still don’t know how they got flight clearance into the country.” Manningham-Buller and Dearlove dine for an hour-and-a-half with a group of American intelligence officials at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 173-174; BBC, 12/4/2007] In addition to Tenet, the US officials at the dinner include James Pavitt and his deputy from the CIA’s Directorate for Operations; A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the CIA’s executive director; Cofer Black, the director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center; Tyler Drumheller, the chief of the CIA’s European Division; the chief of the CIA’s Near East Division; and Thomas Pickard, the acting director of the FBI. Also part of the British delegation is David Manning, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s foreign policy adviser, who was already in the US before 9/11. [Salon, 7/2/2007] The British offer condolences and their full support. The Americans say they are already certain that al-Qaeda was behind the 9/11 attacks, having recognized names on passenger lists of the hijacked flights. They also say they believe the attacks are not yet over. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 174; BBC, 12/4/2007] According to Drumheller, Manning says, “I hope we can all agree that we should concentrate on Afghanistan and not be tempted to launch any attacks on Iraq.” Tenet replies: “Absolutely, we all agree on that. Some might want to link the issues, but none of us wants to go that route.” [Newsweek, 10/30/2006; Salon, 7/2/2007; Guardian, 8/4/2007]

Entity Tags: Thomas Pickard, Tyler Drumheller, James Pavitt, George J. Tenet, Richard Dearlove, David Manning, Eliza Manningham-Buller, A.B. (“Buzzy”) Krongard, Cofer Black

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Top British officials attend a meeting to discuss Britain’s potential role in the Bush administration’s confrontation with Iraq. According to the minutes of the meeting, transcribed by Matthew Rycroft, Sir Richard Dearlove, head of the British intelligence service, MI6, says that during his last visit (see July 20, 2002) to Washington he noticed a “perceptible shift in attitude. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy.” Furthermore, he states, Bush’s National Security Council indicated it “had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record.” He also noted that there “was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.” [United Kingdom, 7/23/2002; Salon, 5/6/2005; Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2005] Foreign Minister Jack Straw appears to agree with Dearlove’s assessment, saying that it seems clear that President Bush has already decided on using military force to depose Saddam Hussein. But Straw notes that the Bush administration’s case against Saddam was “thin.” The Iraqi leader “was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran,” the minutes say, summarizing his remarks. [Guardian, 5/2/2005; Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2005] There is no indication in the minutes that anyone present at the meeting disputed Dearlove’s or Straw’s observations. [United Kingdom, 7/23/2002] Furthermore, the account provided by the intelligence official and Straw are corroborated by a former senior US official who is later interviewed by Knight Ridder. It is “an absolutely accurate description of what transpired,” the official will say. [Knight Ridder, 5/2/2005] Straw proposes that the next step would be to “work up an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors,” which “would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.” [Guardian, 5/2/2005; Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2005] Britain’s attorney general, Lord Peter Goldsmith, warns that “the desire for regime change [is] not a legal base for military action,” the minutes say. But Blair says that “it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/2005] Finally, the officials agree that the British government “should continue to work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action” but “not ignore the legal issues.” [Guardian, 5/2/2005] The minutes do not provide any indication that officials discussed how war might be avoided. [Salon, 6/10/2005] The minutes of this meetings will be revealed by the British Sunday Times three years later (see May 1, 2005). Commonly referred to as the “Downing Street Memo,” the minutes will re-spark the controversy over politicized intelligence.

Entity Tags: Richard Wilson, Michael Boyce, Peter Henry Goldsmith, Richard Dearlove, Jonathan Powell, Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw, Alastair Campbell, Francis Richards, Sally Morgan, John Scarlett, Tony Blair

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Robin Cook (see March 17-18, 2003) publishes portions of a diary he had kept when he was Tony Blair’s foreign minister. The published memoirs reveal—among other things—that Blair had intentionally misled the British population. [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003; Guardian, 10/6/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004] The diary reveals how before the war intelligence provided to Cook by British intelligence chief John Scarlett indicated that Saddam Hussein probably did not have weapons of mass destruction that could be used to attack the US or Britain. [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003; Guardian, 10/6/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004] Cook’s entries also show that before the war, Blair did not believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could be used to attack the US or Britain. [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003; Guardian, 10/6/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004] Additionally, the diary shows that Tony Blair ignored the “large number of ministers who spoke up against the war.” He says that the officials in the foreign ministry were consistently opposed to the invasion of Iraq. [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004]

Entity Tags: Robin Cook, Tony Blair, John Scarlett

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

A top-secret British government memo warns that Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war means that Britain will be a likely al-Qaeda target “for many years to come.” The memo, written by the Joint Intelligence Committee, the senior intelligence body in Britain which issues threat assessments, is entitled International Terrorism: Impact of Iraq. It is approved by the heads of Britain’s main intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6. The memo states: “There is a clear consensus within the [British] extremist community that Iraq is a legitimate jihad and should be supported. Iraq has re-energized and re-focused a wide range of networks in [Britain].… We judge that the conflict in Iraq has exacerbated the threat from international terrorism and will continue to have an impact in the long term. It has reinforced the determination of terrorists who were already committed to attacking the West and motivated others who were not.… Iraq is likely to be an important motivating factor for some time to come in the radicalization of British Muslims and for those extremists who view attacks against [Britain] as legitimate.” It also says that Iraq is being used as a “training ground and base” for terrorists, and that terrorists are freely moving between Iraq and Britain. The memo is written in April 2005, but will not be leaked to the press until April 2006. It is circulated to Prime Minister Tony Blair and other top British officials before the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005). But after those bombings, Blair will repeatedly contradict the memo’s conclusions in public statements, denying any link between the Iraq war and an increase in terrorist activity in Britain. Blair will say that an “evil ideology,” not the war, has motivated suicide bombers, and, “The people who are responsible for terrorist attacks are terrorists.” [Sunday Times (London), 4/2/2006]

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Al-Qaeda, Joint Intelligence Committee, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Tony Blair

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The former deputy head of British intelligence, MI6, says that Britain was “dragged into a war in Iraq which was always against our better judgment.” Nigel Inkster served as deputy director of MI6 at the time Britain entered the war in Iraq. Inkster says there were always deep reservations about the war among the senior officials of MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. MI6 has taken the brunt of the blame for the failed intelligence that helped lead Britain to join the US in the war, including the “sexed-up” or “dodgy” dossier that led then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to claim that Iraq had the capability to launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes. Inkster, during a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research, says weakness at the Foreign Office allowed Britain to become involved in a war that few felt comfortable joining. “The Foreign Office no longer does foreign policy,” Inkster says. “It acts as a platform for a multiplicity of UK departments and the lack of a clearly articulated sense of our strategic location in the world explains how we got dragged into a war with Iraq which was always against our better judgment.” Inkster also criticizes Britain’s role in Afghanistan, saying Britain has been attempting to implement an agenda that is “ludicrously at variants with the resources allocated to that task.” Inkster says the world is moving from “being policed by America to be policed by nobody,” and the dangers of an increasingly unstable world mean populations are likely to fall back on the “snake oil and voodoo” of religious and nationalistic movements. [Daily Telegraph, 5/3/2009]

Entity Tags: UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Nigel Inkster, Tony Blair

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Britain’s ambassador to the United States, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, warns that Afghanistan will need “global support” for decades before being able to govern and protect itself. “We’re going to have a very long-term commitment to Afghanistan’s future,” he says. “This is not just one year; this is going to be for decades. We’re going to help them get to a state which they can ward off the return of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. That’s our strategic objective.” Sheinwald denies that public support for British involvement in Afghanistan is flagging, saying that opinion in Britain remains evenly divided on the war and will improve when results are seen “over the next year or so.” Sheinwald is accompanying British Foreign Secretary David Miliband who is on a two-day visit to the US to discuss war policy in Afghanistan with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, among others. [Boston Globe, 7/31/2009]

Entity Tags: David Miliband, Nigel Sheinwald, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Hillary Clinton

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

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