David Gardner
Financial Times
July 22, 2010

So now we know. Iraq posed no real threat prior to the Anglo-American invasion of March 2003. There was no credible intelligence to suggest any link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. But what the assault on Iraq did do was proliferate jihadism across the Middle East and incubate Islamist extremism in the UK, leading to the London Tube and bus bombings five years ago and 15 other “substantial plots”.

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“Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad,” Eliza Manningham-Buller, former director-general of MI5, the British domestic intelligence service, told the UK war inquiry this week.

There are those who say there is nothing new about this. We have known it all for some time. Moreover, those, in and outside government, with more than a cursory knowledge of the region, knew it well enough beforehand. But what makes Lady Manningham-Buller’s testimony so devastating is that this was the advice her service gave Tony Blair’s government at the time. Indeed, MI5 refused a request “to put in some low-grade” intelligence to beef up the September 2002 government document making the case for war – the “dodgy dossier” – “because we didn’t think it was reliable”.

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