Tony Blair was specifically warned that Isis could come into being - and now we're paying the price

The Chilcot report specifically states that Blair had been warned this could happen, in great detail

Robert Verkaik
Thursday 07 July 2016 12:33 BST
Chilcot was clear in stating that Blair knew of terrorist groups possibly with sleeper cells in Iraq
Chilcot was clear in stating that Blair knew of terrorist groups possibly with sleeper cells in Iraq (Getty)

The lorry bomb detonated in Baghdad by Isis over the weekend which killed 250 civilians was the deadliest attack in Iraq since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. In 13 short years, global insecurity has turned full circle.

Rather than protecting the world from terrorist attacks, the invasion of Iraq has made it more likely.

David Cameron has even said that Isis is so dangerous it poses an existential threat to our country.

In parliament today, Cameron concluded his response to the Chilcot inquiry by reiterating this point and urging us all to learn the lessons of Iraq as we try to combat the growing menace of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his evil terror network.

Surely no one, not even Tony Blair, could be accused of imagining that our meddling in the Middle East would have delivered such devastating consequences for the world.

But today we learned that our Prime Minister was explicitly warned in 2003 of the risk of an upsurge in terrorism and yet still decided to commit the country to war.

Sir John Chilcot, in a report that has been worth every day of the seven year long wait for its publication, set out the recklessness of Blair’s position in the starkest possible terms.

He said: “Blair had been warned…that military action would increase the threat from Al Qaida to the UK and to UK interests. He had also been warned that an invasion might lead to Iraq’s weapons and capabilities being transferred into the hands of terrorists.”

This had been one of the justifications for the invasion of Iraq: that by not acting we risked letting Saddam’s chemical weapons fall into the hands of terrorists.

Yet Blair told the inquiry he could not have known at the time that the invasion would trigger such an apocalyptic outcome.

To this Sir John says: “We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and Al Qaida activity in Iraq, were each explicitly identified before the invasion.”

In fact the Joint Intelligence Committee specifically told Blair the intelligence services believed that combat operations against Iraq would trigger AQ attacks against the West. More worryingly, MI6 suspected AQ had sleeper cells already in Iraq ready to strike.

Blair has tried to defend himself against the claim that the invasion was directly responsible for the creation of the Isis terrorist group which plagues the world today.

He says that the inchoate terrorist organisation only came into being many years later. And that it exploited the unregulated space of northern Syria rather than Iraq. But let us be clear: Isis was directly spawned from AQ in Iraq. In 2004, a year after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and formed al-Qaeda In Iraq, which became a major force in the insurgency.

In February 2003 the Joint Intelligence Committee almost spelt out the possibility of exactly this kind of terrorist conflagration. In a top secret memo entitled 'INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM: WAR WITH IRAQ' it concludes: “Al Qaida and associated groups will continue to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat will be heightened by military action against Iraq. The broader threat from Islamist terrorists will also increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-US/anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West. And there is a risk that the transfer of CB (chemical and biological) material or expertise, during or in the aftermath of conflict, will enhance Al Qaida’s capabilities.”

Lord Michael Williams was the former adviser to the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. He is in no doubt about the consequences of not heeding this piece of crucial intelligence. Speaking to an Australian television station he said: “The dangers posed today in Iraq and in Syria by Isis to Britain and Australia and the US are far, far greater than anything ever posed by Saddam Hussein. These people would like to kill on a large scale in London, New York and in Sydney. That was never the case with Saddam Hussein, despite the many abhorrent aspects of his government.”

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