Trouble at the FCO

Jonathan Steele

‘Despite explicit warnings,’ Chilcot said, introducing his report, ‘the consequences of the invasion were underestimated.’ A good deal of the blame for this has to be laid at the door of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Chilcot listed four possible consequences that many people had identified before the war was launched: the risk of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and increased al-Qaida activity. Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, did warn the government that al-Qaida would win new recruits, in Britain as well as the Middle East, if the invasion went ahead. The other three predictions were discussed by academic experts, but seem barely to have registered on the Whitehall radar. The Foreign Office never produced a reliable forecast of the likely aftermath of the war, and it failed to predict the religious and sectarian tensions that came to bedevil post-Saddam politics.

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