Feb 21, 2007

Iraq war fueling global jihad

Brutal reality: The war is fueling global jihad By PETER BERGEN and PAUL CRUICKSHANK Wednesday, February 21st, 2007 As the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated, President Bush has depicted the war in Iraq as crucial to the wider war on terrorism. He claims that terrorists who otherwise "would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders" are being drawn to Iraq and defeated there, like moths to a flame. And when faced with the question of whether more terrorists are being created worldwide than are being killed in Iraq, administration officials have ducked. "There are not good metrics," declared former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last year. Today, drawing on data from the comprehensive terrorism database maintained by the Rand Corp. and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for thePrevention of Terrorism, we release a study that for the first time examines the metrics - andyields a resounding finding: The rate of fatal terrorist attacks around the world by jihadist groups, and the number of civilians killed in those attacks, has risen sharply since the invasion of Iraq. Comparing the period before the war (Sept. 12, 2001, to March 20, 2003) and the period since, there has been a 607% rise in the average yearly incidence ofattacks - and a 237% jump inthe fatality rate. Moths to a flame? Hardly. Rather, the Iraq war is a flame that has helped ignite global jihad. "Tell me something I don't know," you might say - we can all see the insurgencies raging in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even after excluding these two hot spots, there has been a 35% rise in the number of terrorist attacks globally and a 25% increase in attacks on Western targets. Why? The Iraq war has allowed Al Qaeda, which was on the rocks in 2002, to reinvent itself as the standard-bearer of a worldwide jihad. Not only has this brought more recruits to Sunni terrorist groups, but the conduct of these groups in Iraq has energized militants elsewhere. This has particularly been the case in the Arab world, whose countries excluding Iraq have seen 783% more fatalities from jihadist terrorism since the U.S. invasion. Europe also has seen a newscale of attacks. Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head ofBritain's domestic intelligence services, spelled it out: "In Iraq, attacks are regularly videoed andthe footage is downloaded onto the Internet [and] chillingly we see the results here." Finally, our study shows that the Iraq war has coincided with terrorists employing deadlier techniques. Excluding Iraq and Afghanistan, we see a 150% increase globally in the rate of suicide attacks by jihadist groups since the war began. And recent arrests in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and France suggest that the war is leading to "blowback," as seasoned Iraq veterans migrate back home and plot new terrorist attacks. Yes, few American civilians have been killed since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. But it is naive to believe that this will continue to be the case. The evidence shows the war has damaged America's global efforts to defeat Al Qaeda. Cruickshank and Bergen are fellows at the NYU Center on Law and Security. Their study is available at motherjones.com.