Iraq posed no threat to the UK when then prime minister Tony Blair took Britain to war there, former MI5 boss Dame Eliza Manningham Buller has said.
The one-time security service boss has spoken out about the conflict previously, revealing the reservations she had about it at the time.
But in a new interview, she told the Radio Times: “Iraq did not present a threat to the UK. The service advised that it was likely to increase the domestic threat and that it was a distraction from the pursuit of al-Qaida.
“I understood the need to focus on Afghanistan. Iraq was a distraction.”
Ms Manningham-Buller said it was “for others to decide” whether the war was a mistake.
But she added: “Intelligence isn’t complete without the full picture and the full picture is all about doubt. Otherwise, you go the way of George Bush.”
She also described Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as “a horror” but appeared torn about military interventions like the current Nato foray into Libya.
“It’s very difficult – do you just stand by and watch people being murdered?” she said.
Asked about Britain’s friendlier approach to Col Gaddafi in the recent past, she replied: “There was a point to cosying up to him, to get him to forfeit his stockpiles of WMD (weapons of mass destruction).
“It was the right thing to do. But yes, you do have to be aware of who you’re dealing with.”
Defending MI5 against suggestions that it could have prevented the July 7 terror attacks on London, she said: “In intelligence, you can know of someone, without knowing exactly what they are going to do.
“The next time there is an attack, the same could be true – though I hope it won’t be.”
And in a bleak warning about future British bombings, she said: “I assume there will be. This isn’t a ’war’ you win in a military sense, and you can’t anticipate everything.”