UK considered Iran, Libya, North Korea bigger threats than Iraq


British Prime Minister Tony Blair was told ten days before the invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs likely remained "dismantled," but the prime minister continued to insist that Iraq was producing chemical and biological weapons, a British inquiry heard Wednesday.

"With British and US troops massed on the border, the new intelligence was dismissed," reports the Times of London.

Sir William Ehrman, the director of international security at the UK's Foreign Office from 2000 to 2002, told the British government's inquiry into the Iraq invasion that "on March 10 we got a report saying that the chemical weapons might have remained disassembled and that Saddam hadn’t yet ordered their re-assembly and he might lack warheads capable of effective dispersal of agents."

The US and Britain led the Iraq invasion on March 20, 2003, ten days after that report. As the Guardian notes, "in the government's dossier on Iraqi weapons, published that month, Blair wrote that he believed intelligence assessments had established "beyond doubt" that Saddam was continuing to produce chemical and biological weapons – an assertion repeated up to the invasion."

The revelations will likely cast more dark clouds on the historical legacy of Tony Blair, who was credited with revitalizing Britain's sagging leftist Labour Party after two decades of electoral losses to the Conservatives, but whose reputation has been scarred by lingering questions about his undying support for the Bush administration's push for an invasion of Iraq.

Among the things the Chilcot Inquiry, as it is known, is to determine is whether Blair misled the British public in the run-up to the war. Yesterday's testimony from Sir William increases the chances that the answer to that question will be yes.

BIGGER FISH TO FRY?

The inquiry was also told that the UK's Foreign Office didn't consider Saddam Hussein's Iraq to be the biggest threat to global security.

"The inquiry was told that Iraq was ranked by the Foreign Office as only the fourth most dangerous of rogue states trying to develop weapons of mass destruction in 2001," reports the UK's Daily Telegraph. "Iran, North Korea and Libya were of greater concern to officials, who were confident that weapons inspections during the 1990s had dismantled Iraq’s nuclear capability."

According to the Times, the inquiry also heard that UN weapons inspector Hans Blix told the British government in February, 2003, that "Saddam might not have weapons of mass destruction. Mr Blair continued to say there was a risk to national security from WMD without mentioning the new intelligence."

Blair is scheduled to testify before the inquiry next year.