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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Iraq inquiry: Saddam posed very limited threat to UK, ex-MI5 chief says

The former MI5 director general Eliza Manningham-Buller today delivered a withering assessment of the case for war against Iraq, saying it had significantly increased the terrorist threat to Britian.

Giving evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, Manningham-Buller said the threat posed by Saddam Hussein before the US-led invasion in 2003 was low.

But the toppling of Saddam allowed Osama bin Laden to gain a stronghold in Iraq and radicalised young Muslims in Britain, she said.

In evidence that undermined the case for war presented by the former prime minister Tony Blair, she was asked whether it was feared Saddam could have linked terrorists to weapons of mass destruction, facilitating their use against the west.

"It certainly wasn't of concern in either the short term or the medium term to me or my colleagues," she replied.
Manningham-Buller said the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan had radicalised parts of a generation of Muslims who saw the military actions as an "attack on Islam".

She added that, prior to the Iraq invasion, the prospect of it fuelling terrorism in the UK had been communicated through joint intelligence committee reports. She said she had also spoken to the home secretary about the risk.

Manningham-Buller was damning about the impact of the invasion on Iraq, saying the toppling of Saddam had allowed Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida to move in. "Arguably, we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad," she added.

She said the focus on Iraq had "reduced the focus on Afghanistan", and was damning in her assessment of every stage of the invasion, from the low threat posed by Iraq and the quality of intelligence provided to the reconstruction process after Saddam was toppled.

Manningham-Buller said there was no evidence of Iraqi involvement in the September 11 attacks on the US, a view she said was shared by the CIA and which prompted the then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, to set up an alternative intelligence unit.

She revealed that, during a visit to New York, she had tried to persuade Paul Wolfowitz, the then deputy secretary of defence, not to disband the Iraqi army.

Asked whether she had any chance of succeeding, she said: "Not a hope." She said there was "plenty of evidence" that planning for the aftermath of the invasion was "not sufficiently done by the US".

Manningham-Buller said that by 2004, the year after the invasion, the British security services were "overburdened" by intelligence reports on terrorist plots posing a threat to the UK.

That was despite the fact that MI5's budget had been doubled after a request she made to Blair in the autumn of 2003.

To coincide with Manningham-Buller's evidence, a letter she sent to John Gieve (pdf), a permanent secretary at the home office a year before the Iraq invasion, was declassified.

In it, she wrote that there was "no credible evidence" Iraq was implicated in the September 11 attacks, and that Saddam was "unlikely" to order terrorist strikes unless "he perceives that the survival of his regime is threatened". She noted that the Iraqi dictator was more likely to use conventional weapons against targets in the region of Iraq than terrorism or chemical weapons against western states.

In her evidence to the inquiry, she said she had not subsequently changed the opinions expressed in the letter.

She told the panel the joint intelligence committee was "fallible" and "inadequately challenged" on Iraq and that the intelligence used to justify the invasion was not up to scratch.

Manningham-Butler did say that the threat of terrorism "shouldn't stop you from doing what is right" but that will prove scant comfort to the proponents of the war after one of the most damaging sessions of evidence heard at the Chilcot inquiry to date.

Asked by Sir John Chilcot if she had any general reflections, she replied: "The main one would be the danger of going to war on fragmentary intelligence."

The Guardian

Jobbik deputy group leader sacked for voicing concern over uniformed wing

Jobbik's deputy parliamentary group leader Lajos Posze has been removed from his post because of his comments distancing himself from the Hungarian Guard Movement, the uniformed arm of the party, are unacceptable, the leader of the radical nationalist party Gabor Vona told reporters on Monday.

Posze told conservative daily Magyar Nemzet at the weekend that it was unfortunate that the party's name was so often associated with the Guard - which has been outlawed - and other extremists. He said that his view was shared by several other members of the party's parliamentary group.

Vona told MTI that Posze's sacking served as a warning but further measures would not be taken. He said there was no difference of opinion between Jobbik and the Guard and added that the "friendly, brotherly relations" between the party and the movement would persist in the future.

Vona said that Posze had admitted fault in connection with his statement. He added that all MPs of the party have contributed 50,000 forints (EUR 173) each to a fund to help those they believe have been persecuted for practicing "their political right, the right to assembly."

Politics Hu

Ceremonies mark anniversary of failed plot to kill Hitler

Ceremonies marking the anniversary of the failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler will be held at sites around Berlin on Tuesday, as Germany remembers the attempt that came closest to killing the Nazi leader.

Commemorations in the German capital on Tuesday will mark the anniversary of the failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The attempt on the life of the Nazi leader was the culmination of efforts by the German resistance.

The ceremonies begin with an ecumenical service at the Ploetzensee Memorial Center in Berlin, which commemorates the victims of the Nazi regime. The center, formally a prison, was the site of nearly 3,000 executions.
At midday, government officials will take part in a ceremony at the Bendler Block building to remember the fallen members of the German resistance, many of whom gave their lives in the effort to topple the Nazi regime.

The Bendler Block was the headquarters of the German officers who carried out the failed assassination attempt, known as Operation Valkyrie.

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and Bundesrat President Jens Boehrnsen will attend the event, which will be followed by the laying of wreaths at the site.

The ceremonies will also see over 400 soldiers in Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr, give their pledge of allegiance in front of the Reichstag, the German parliament. The rite has been taken annually since July 20, 2008, to honor the plotters of the failed attempt on Hitler's life.

On July 20, 1944, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a briefcase inside Hitler's Wolf's Lair field headquarters near Rastenberg in East Prussia, now a part of Poland.

The briefcase was positioned under an oak table in a room where Hitler and a host of Nazi military personnel were holding a meeting. However, one of the table's heavy supports protected Hitler from the explosion, leaving him virtually unscathed but killing four others.

Hours later, Stauffenberg flew back to Berlin in an attempt to initiate a military coup, but was rounded up, along with other accused co-conspirators, and executed in the courtyard of the Bendler Block building, from which the resistance had sought to initiate the post-assassination coup.

DW World


Talks between the two Liberal parties D66 and VVD, Labour and the left-wing greens GroenLinks are heading towards a crucial phase this week, the NRC reports on Monday. The talks are now entering their third week and none of the party leaders would comment in any detail before Monday morning's session. In the meantime, it is apparent that the VVD have the most to lose from joining forces with the three left of centre parties, the paper says.

The party will have 31 out of 81 coalition seats in parliament if the talks come to fruition and is under pressure over its plans to slash government spending, the paper says. Over the past two weeks, the parties have been outlining their differences. 'The getting to know you phase is now over,' one insider told the paper.

An internet poll by Maurice de Hond this weekend gave Geert Wilders' anti-Islam party 35 seats in parliament - making it by far the biggest party. The VVD lost eight seats in De Hond's poll, taking it back to 23. Labour was second - down three seats at 27. Wilders on Monday made a personal plea to VVD leader Mark Rutte not to join forces with Labour and the others. 'Purple plus will be a nightmare for the VVD,' Wilders said. Purple plus refers to the mixture of party colours. Initial talks on forming a right-wing coalition between the PVV,VVD and Christian Democrats stalled over CDA reluctance to get involved.

Dutch News