US 'warned about Iraq mission'

Officials familiar with the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation, which is due to release its report soon, also say analysts warned the Bush administration against a sustained US presence in Iraq, fearing it could increase extremist recruiting.

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The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the report's declassification is not finished.

It could be made public as early as this week.

The committee also found that the warnings predicting what would happen after the US-led invasion were circulated widely in government, including to the Pentagon and Vice President Dick Cheney's office.

It was not clear whether US President George W Bush was briefed.

A spokesman for the White House's National Security Council could not immediately be reached for comment this evening.

Renewed Criticism

The Bush administration is facing renewed criticism for failing to execute adequate post-invasion plans to stabilise Iraq after President Saddam Hussein had been overthrown.

The committee's findings are the latest chapter in its four-year investigation into the pre-war intelligence assessments on Iraq.

An earlier volume, completed and released in 2004, was highly critical of the intelligence agencies and then-CIA Director George Tenet.

That bruising 511-page document found widespread problems throughout US spy agencies and said US intelligence agencies engaged in "group think" by failing to challenge the assumption that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Senators also found that analysts failed to explain their uncertainties to policymakers.

Yet, in predicting the effects of the US invasion, the committee now finds that US analysts appear to have been largely on the mark.

A former intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision to go to war had been made months before the 2003 papers were drafted and analysts had no delusions that they were going to head off military action.

Rather, the official said, they hoped their warnings would be considered in the planning.

Since the release of his memoir several weeks ago, Mr Tenet has been criticised anew for not doing more to warn Bush about the shaky Iraq intelligence and the consequences of invading.

Yet his book provided a glimpse of some of the pre-war warnings about the consequences of invading Iraq.

For instance, he discusses a paper prepared for a Camp David meeting with the president in September 2002 titled, "The Perfect Storm: The Negative Consequences for Invading Iraq."

Mr Tenet called the paper a list of "worst-case scenarios," which included anarchy and territorial break-up of Iraq and a surge of global terrorism against US interests, fuelled by deepening Islamic antipathy toward the United States.

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