MPs' SHOCK REPORT ON WAR FEARS: -Toppling Saddam Is Terror Risk to UK -It'll Be Easier for Terrorists to Get WMD -Al-Qaeda Is the Real Threat.Not Iraq WHAT BLAIR WAS WARNED AND WHAT HE.. IGNORED
Byline: JAMES HARDY, Political Editor
TONY Blair ignored advice that terrorism posed a far greater threat than Saddam Hussein as he plotted war on Iraq, secret evidence revealed yesterday.
Senior MPs said in a report spy chiefs believed "al-Qaeda and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq."
Mr Blair led Britain to believe Iraq had large quantities of chemical and biological agents - some of which could be mobilised in 45 minutes - and could arm Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda.
But, it was disclosed, he ignored information from the powerful Joint Intelligence Committee that:
A STRIKE on Saddam could dramatically increase the risk of terrorists obtaining WMD.
SPY chiefs had virtually no intelligence about alleged quantities of chemical or biological agents held by Iraq.
THERE was no evidence Iraq provided terror agents to al-Qaeda.
The Government also failed to mention that the claim Saddam could mobilise weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes referred only to battlefield rockets and shells, not strategic missiles.
Mr Blair never admitted the spies' concerns. Instead he released a controversial intelligence dossier, questioned by defence experts, making the case for war.
Last night furious critics of the conflict demanded a full explanation.
Calling for a judicial inquiry into the intelligence against Saddam, Labour MP Alice Mahon said: "As every week passes, more and more evidence emerges of the extent to which the country was misled. This is another example of the misinformation pumped out from No10."
Yesterday's damning disclosures came in a report of evidence to the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee inquiry into Iraqi WMD.
The ISC, which took evidence from the heads of the JIC and MI6, said: "In their assessment dated February 10, 2003, the JIC reported there was no intelligence Iraq had provided chemical and biological (CB) materials to al-Qaeda, or of Iraqi intentions to conduct CB attacks using Iraqi intelligence officials or their agents.
"However, it judged that in the event of imminent regime collapse there would be a risk of transfer of such material, whether or not as a deliberate Iraqi regime policy.
"The JIC assessed that any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents finding their way into the hands of terrorists."
The committee said the JIC should have made it clear the 45 minute claim - repeated four times in the intelligence dossier - did not refer to strategic missiles.
Their report said: "The claim was always likely to attract attention because it was arresting detail the public had not seen before.
"The fact it was assessed to refer to battlefield chemical and biological munitions and their movement on the battlefield, not to any other form of chemical or biological attack, should have been highlighted. …