|How the war on terror made the world a more
New figures show dramatic rise in terror attacks worldwide since
the invasion of Iraq
By Kim Sengupta and Patrick Cockburn
Independent" -- - Innocent people across the world
are now paying the price of the "Iraq effect", with the loss of
hundreds of lives directly linked to the invasion and occupation
by American and British forces.
An authoritative US study of terrorist attacks after the
invasion in 2003 contradicts the repeated denials of George Bush
and Tony Blair that the war is not to blame for an upsurge in
fundamentalist violence worldwide. The research is said to be
the first to attempt to measure the "Iraq effect" on global
terrorism. It found that the number killed in jihadist attacks
around the world has risen dramatically since the Iraq war began
in March 2003. The study compared the period between 11
September 2001 and the invasion of Iraq with the period since
the invasion. The count - excluding the Arab-Israel conflict -
shows the number of deaths due to terrorism rose from 729 to
5,420. As well as strikes in Europe, attacks have also increased
in Chechnya and Kashmir since the invasion. The research was
carried out by the Centre on Law and Security at the NYU
Foundation for Mother Jones magazine.
Iraq was the catalyst for a ferocious fundamentalist backlash,
according to the study, which says that the number of those
killed by Islamists within Iraq rose from seven to 3,122.
Afghanistan, invaded by US and British forces in direct response
to the September 11 attacks, saw a rise from very few before
2003 to 802 since then. In the Chechen conflict, the toll rose
from 234 to 497. In the Kashmir region, as well as India and
Pakistan, the total rose from 182 to 489, and in Europe from
none to 297.
Two years after declaring "mission accomplished" in Iraq
President Bush insisted: "If we were not fighting and destroying
the enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be
plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our
borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in
uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people."
Mr Blair has also maintained that the Iraq war has not been
responsible for Muslim fundamentalist attacks such as the 7/7
London bombings which killed 52 people. "Iraq, the region and
the wider world is a safer place without Saddam [Hussein]," Mr
Blair declared in July 2004. Announcing the deployment of 1,400
extra troops to Afghanistan earlier this week - raising the
British force level in the country above that in Iraq - the
Prime Minister steadfastly denied accusations by MPs that there
was any link between the Iraq war an unravelling of security
Last month John Negroponte, the Director of National
Intelligence in Washington, said he was "not certain" that the
Iraq war had been a recruiting factor for al-Qa'ida and
insisted: "I wouldn't say that there has been a widespread
growth in Islamic extremism beyond Iraq, I really wouldn't."
Yet the report points out that the US administration's own
National Intelligence Estimate on "Trends in Global Terrorism:
Implications for the United States" - partially declassified
last October - stated that " the Iraq war has become the 'cause
célèbre' for jihadists ... and is shaping a new generation of
terrorist leaders and operatives."
The new study, by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, argues
that, on the contrary, "the Iraq conflict has greatly increased
the spread of al-Qa'ida ideological virus, as shown by a rising
number of terrorist attacks in the past three years from London
to Kabul, and from Madrid to the Red Sea.
"Our study shows that the Iraq war has generated a stunning
increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting
to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and
civilian lives lost. Even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan
is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have
increased by more than one third."
In trying to gauge the "Iraq effect", the authors had focused on
the rate of terrorist attacks in two periods - from September
2001 to 30 March 2003 (the day of the Iraq invasion) and 21
March 2003 to 30 September 2006. The research has been based on
the MIPT-RAND Terrorism database.
The report's assertion that the Iraq invasion has had a far
greater impact in radicalising Muslims is widely backed security
personnel in the UK. Senior anti-terrorist officials told The
Independent that the attack on Iraq, and the now-discredited
claims by the US and British governments about Saddam Hussein's
weapons of mass destruction, had led to far more young Muslims
engaging in extremist activity than the invasion of Afghanistan
two years previously.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of the Secret Service (MI5)
said recently: "In Iraq attacks are regularly videoed and the
footage is downloaded into the internet.
"Chillingly, we see the results here. Young teenagers are being
groomed to be suicide bombers. The threat is serious, is growing
and will, I believe, be with us for a generation."
In Afghanistan the most active of the Taliban commanders, Mullah
Dadullah, acknowledged how the Iraq war has influenced the
struggle in Afghanistan.
"We give and take with the mujahedin in Afghanistan", he said.
The most striking example of this has been the dramatic rise in
suicide bombings in Afghanistan, a phenomenon not seen through
the 10 years of war with the Russians in the 1980s.
The effect of Iraq on various jihadist conflicts has been
influenced according to a number of factors, said the report.
Countries with troops in Iraq, geographical proximity to the
country, the empathy felt for the Iraqis and the exchange of
information between Islamist groups. "This may explain why
jihadist groups in Europe, Arab countries, and Afghanistan were
more affected by the Iraq war than other regions", it said.
Russia, like the US, has used the language of the "war on
terror" in its actions in Chechnya, and al-Qa'ida and their
associates have entrenched themselves in the border areas of
Pakistan from where they have mounted attacks in Kashmir,
Pakistan and India.
Statistics for the Arab-Israel conflict also show an increase,
but the methodology is disputed in the case of Palestinian
attacks in the occupied territories and settler attacks on
* The US is joining the Iraqi government in a diplomatic
initiative inviting Iran and Syria to a "neighbours meeting" on
stabilising Iraq, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said
yesterday. The move reflects a change of approach
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