The British government has been at great pains to deny that the Iraq war has contributed to the growth of terrorist organizations worldwide, and hence to the insecurity of the Western countries involved.
Not so the US National Intelligence Council, which is charged with providing long-term assessments on strategic issues for the president and senior policymakers in the form of National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs). According to their April NIE (reported here from the Washington Post, 24th September 2006, but picked up by the British press next day) the war in Iraq has become "a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the US and its allies can reduce the threat".
The NIE document cites the "centrality" of the US invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the US position.
The Post quotes an unnamed US intelligence official as saying: "It's a very candid assessment. It's stating the obvious." Obvious to anyone who cares to look, you might say, but apparently not obvious to the British government.
Nor is it as if this outcome was unforeseen: readers might be interested to note that on 13th September 2002 the Enfield and the Barnets United Nations Association asked the three local MPs a series of questions about war in Iraq, then six months away. Among the questions was: "Do you agree that military action is likely to prove counterproductive because it will provide the motivation for a new generation of terrorist activity?"
But the Post's story raises another issue in its comment that "both Bush and Bin Laden now consistently describe the Iraq war as the 'central front' of the global war, and both are depending on victory there to set the direction of future struggles far afield". Not, please note, poverty or climate change, not the millennium development goals or a just settlement to the Palestininan question. What Bush and Bin Laden have in common is their attempt to lever us into taking sides between imperialism and Islamism in the war on the "central front".
We beg to demur. We are, as we were in September 2002, for patience, respect and above all debate in building the international community.