By Ray Fleming

IT was as if all the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle suddenly fitted into place to give a perfect picture of what had happened before, during and after the UK-US war on Iraq. Giving evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq yesterday Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of Britain's MI6 security service during the time, gave a devastating account of how Tony Blair and his advisors ignored advice and intelligence that did not support their view of the threat from Saddam Hussein and the need to displace him. Some of Manningham-Buller's evidence was not new -- no one, not even Mr Blair, now thinks that Hussein ever possessed weapons of mass destruction -- but she cast light on issues which have remained unclear and provided insights into new areas previously not sufficiently discussed.

Manningham-Buller was particularly persuasive on how the invasion of Iraq provided Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda with the opportunity they needed to extend and intensify a jihad against the west. By 2004, she said, part of a generation of Muslims had been radicalised and in Britain MI6 was overburdened by reports of terrorist plots to bring the violence to Britain's streets. Clearly, from what she said, she did not have appropriate access to the prime minister but she insisted that all her reservations about the Iraq invasion were included in the Joint Intelligence Committee reports provided to No 10. Mr Blair has a lot to answer for.