US and British occupation of Iraq has accelerated
recruitment to the ranks of Osama bin Laden's
terrorist network and made the world a less
safe place, according to a leading London-based
assessment, by the International Institute
of Strategic Studies (IISS), states that the
occupation has become "a potent global
recruitment pretext" for al-Qa'ida, which
now has more than 18,000 militants ready to
strike Western targets.
claims that although half of al-Qa'ida's 30
senior leaders and up to 2,000 rank-and-file
members have been killed or captured, a rump
leadership is still intact and over 18,000
potential terrorists are at large, with recruitment
accelerating on account of Iraq. About 1,000
al-Qa'ida supporters are believed to be active
IISS report, published yesterday, says that
the Iraq invasion"galvanised" al-Qa'ida
while weakening the campaign against terrorism.
At the same time it has split the Western
alliance, leaving the US and Britain isolated.
report amounts to a sustained condemnation
of US and British tactics, especially during
the post-war period. Beginning with the decision
of Paul Bremer, the US head of the Coalition
Provisional Authority (CPA), to dissolve the
Iraqi army - leaving a security vacuum - it
criticises the occupation tactics of American
troops who stayed in large fortified bases
and only emerged in heavily armed patrols.
report adds that later swoops, which led to
mass arrests, and aggressive house searches
"perversely inspired insurgent violence".
the report does not spare British commanders.
It points out that, brutal as he was, Saddam
Hussein never tried to disarm the Iraqi population.
The killing of six British soldiers in the
town of Majar al-Kabir in June last year was
preceded by a British raid to search houses
for weapons. At the same time, however, Kurdish
militants were allowed to keep their weapons.
report points out that such is the level of
turmoil in Iraq that the US and Britain will
need 500,000 troops in the country, a huge
increase from the 145,000 the Allies have
at present, to stabilise the country.
Stevenson, the editor of the survey, said:
"Invading Iraq damaged the war on terror,
there is no doubt about that. It has strengthened
rather than weakened al-Qa'ida."
report also highlights the shortcomings of
US policy after the toppling of Saddam. It
says: "The lawlessness and looting that
greeted the liberation of Baghdad on 9 April
2003 was replaced by widespread criminality,
violence and instability. A year later, US
troops and newly constituted Iraqi forces
faced an insurgency that had become a solid
obstacle to rebuilding the country and moving
it towards democracy and stability."
to cope with the situation, the US is now
acquiescing to the formation of new private
militias similar to the one patrolling Fallujah,
says the IISS.
CPA, says the report, has little knowledge
of the area it is meant to control. And Iraqi
exiles brought back to the country by the
Americans to become the new political elite
"are very unpopular ... they have not
managed to penetrate Iraqi society, mobilise
support or engender allegiance".
IISS has strong establishment links, with
former US and British government officials
among its members. The Foreign Office contributed
£100,000 towards the setting up of its
headquarters in central London, and Baroness
Thatcher and Lord Robertson of Port Ellen,
then secretary general of Nato, attended the
IISS dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction,
published on 9 September 2002, was edited
by Gary Samore, formerly of the US State Department,
and presented by Dr John Chipman, a former
Nato fellow. It was immediately seized on
by Bush and Blair administrations as providing
"proof" that Saddam was just months
away from launching a chemical and biological,
or even a nuclear attack. Large parts of the
IISS document were subsequently recycled in
the now notorious Downing Street dossier,
published with a foreword by the Prime Minister,
the following week.
unlike No 10, the IISS admits that it made
mistakes in its dossier about the extent of
the Iraqi threat, and has commissioned an
independent assessment by Rolf Ekeus, a former
head of United Nations arms inspectors in
Samore and Dr Chipman pointed out yesterday
that its dossier had caveats about Iraq's
supposed WMD arsenal, while the Government
insisted on removing such caveats from intelligence
assessments - leading to "sexing up"
Chipman said of the behaviour of American
forces: "The US is realising the awful
truth that the first law of peacekeeping is
the same as the first law of forensics: 'Every
contact leaves a trace.' Unfortunately, too
many bad traces have been left recently, and
many good ones will be needed to recover its
reputation, prestige and effective power."
Samore said: "Whether or not the Iraq
war is seen as a success in the long term
would depend on the successful transfer of
power to an Iraqi administration in a stable
situation. That does not look very hopeful
at the moment and this, of course, is related
to how this war and its aftermath has been
dealt with by the coalition."
2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
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