Mil News Britain dragged into Iraq War

John A Silkstone

Mi General
MI.Net Member
Jul 11, 2004
Former MI6 chief says Britain was 'dragged' into Iraq war

Britain was "dragged into a war in Iraq which was always against out better judgment" the former deputy head of MI6 has claimed, in a remark that will reignite the debate over political interference in the war.

The comments, made by Nigel Inkster, who was deputy director of MI6 at the time, make clear there were reservations over the war at a very senior level within the Secret Intelligence Service.

MI6 was blamed for the failure of intelligence that took Britain to war after helping produce a dossier in which Tony Blair claimed that Iraq was ready to use weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

In a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research, Mr Inkster blamed weakness at the Foreign Office for allowing Britain to get dragged into a war over which officials had serious doubts.

"The Foreign Office no longer does foreign policy," Mr Inkster said. "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."

His views on Iraq, expressed for the first time in public, may also explain why he was passed over as the head of MI6 in favour of Sir John Scarlett, who took responsibility for the dossier during the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly.

Sir John, the current director of MI6, was head of the Joint Intelligence Committee at the start of the war and was criticised for being too close to Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, and Alastair Campbell, his spin doctor.

The Butler Report into the intelligence that took Britain to war, concluded that "more weight was placed on the intelligence than it could bear", and that judgements had stretched available intelligence "to the outer limits".

The comments by Mr Inkster come in the week that the six-year British mission to Iraq ended after the death of 179 British servicemen and thousands of Iraqis.

In his speech, he also criticised the current mission to Afghanistan, saying Britain has been attempting to implement an agenda that is "ludicrously at variants with the resources allocated to that task."

Professor Paul Collier of Oxford University, who has advised the government on failing states, said there had been a "massive mistake" in Afghanistan where Britain had believed there could be a "magical flip from the middle ages to Scandanavia in one go."

Mr Inkster said the world was moving from "being policed by America to be policed by nobody" and the danger of an increasingly unstable world meant populations were likely to fall back on the "snake oil and voodoo" of religious and nationalistic movements.

When it came to the conflict between Russia and Georgia last summer, he added, Britain was caught "completely flat footed" and used a strategy that "amounted to little more than moral indignation, which is not a strategy."

Mr Inkster, who now works for the International Institute of Strategic Studies, worked for MI6 from 1975 until 2006 in posts including Asia, Latin America and Europe.

He spent seven years on the board of the intelligence service, the last two as assistant chief and director for operations and intelligence under Sir Richard Dearlove, who had originally groomed him as his successor.

Similar threads