Last updated on: 6/17/2008 2:02:00 PM PST
How was the war in Iraq expected to impact global terrorism?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Kenneth M. Pollack, PhD, and Daniel L. Byman, PhD, of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, in an analysis paper released Jan. 2007 titled "Things Fall Apart: Containing the Spillover From an Iraqi Civil War," found:

"The worse the civil strife in Iraq becomes, the more countries there are that could be affected by terrorism from Iraq. Critics of the war in Iraq have argued, correctly, that it has proven a disaster for the struggle against Bin Laden and his allies. In Iraq, fighters are receiving training, building networks, and becoming further radicalized-and the U.S. occupation there is proving a dream recruiting tool for radicalizing young Muslims around the world. Michael Scheuer, a former senior CIA official and an expert on al-Qa'ida, acidly writes that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a dream 'Christmas present' for Bin Laden…

Yet a closer look at Iraq and the problem of spillover suggests that a massive civil war there would also exacerbate many problems of terrorism and create new ones. Many civil wars have been breeding grounds for particularly noxious terrorist groups, while others have created hospitable sanctuaries for existing terrorist groups to train, recruit, and mount operations-at times against foes entirely unconnected to the civil war."


Jan. 2007 - Kenneth M. Pollack, PhD 
Daniel L. Byman, PhD 

Melissa Drosjack of FOX News reported the following on Sep. 12, 2006 in an article titled "Bush Uses War on Terror to Push Iraq Policy":

"Bush, who wrapped up his speaking campaign with an address to the nation on the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, strongly reinforced his position that helping build a democracy in Iraq is a critical component of America's war against international terrorists.

'If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons,' Bush said from the Oval Office. 'We are in a war that will set the course for this new century and determine the destiny of millions across the world.'...

Bush, for his part, has never wavered in his position that Iraq is inextricably linked to the War on Terror.

'This war will be difficult, this war will be long, and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty,' Bush said recently....

'A failed Iraq would make America less secure. A failed Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will provide a safe haven for terrorists and extremists,' Bush said last month."


Sep. 12, 2006 - Melissa Drosjack 

A National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report published Apr. 2006 titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" (declassified after portions were leaked to the press), found:

"We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."


Apr. 2006 - National Intelligence Estimate 2006 (68 KB)  

Douglas Jehl, MA, Reporter for New York Times, in a June 22, 2005 article titled "Iraq May Be Prime Place for Training of Militants, C.I.A. Report Concludes," detailed the findings of a classified CIA report:

"A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat.

The assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, was described in recent days by several Congressional and intelligence officials. The officials said it made clear that the war was likely to produce a dangerous legacy by dispersing to other countries Iraqi and foreign combatants more adept and better organized than they were before the conflict…

The officials said the report spelled out how the urban nature of the war in Iraq was helping combatants learn how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of the fighting in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet campaigns of the 1980's. It was during that conflict, primarily rural and conventional, that the United States provided arms to Osama bin Laden and other militants, who later formed Al Qaeda…

Previous warnings of this kind have been less detailed, as when Porter J. Goss, the director of central intelligence, told Congress earlier in the year that jihadists who survive the continued fighting in Iraq would leave there 'experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism,' and form 'a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.'"


June 22, 2005 - Douglas Jehl, MA 

The National Intelligence Council (NIC), reported in a Dec. 2004 publication titled "Mapping the Global Future," released by the 2020 Project Based on Consultations with Nongovernmental Experts Around the World:

"The core al-Qa'ida membership probably will continue to dwindle, but other groups inspired by al-Qa'ida, regionally based groups, and individuals labeled simply as jihadists-united by a common hatred of moderate regimes and the West-are likely to conduct terrorist attacks. The al-Qa'ida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq. We expect that by 2020 al-Qa'ida will have been superseded by similarly inspired but more diffuse Islamic extremist groups, all of which will oppose the spread of many aspects of globalization into traditional Islamic societies…

Iraq…could provide recruitment, training grounds, technical skills and language proficiency for a new class of terrorists who are 'professionalized' and for whom political violence becomes an end in itself."


Dec. 2004 - National Intelligence Council 

Daniel Benjamin, MA, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute, writing for the Oct. 2003 United States Institute of Peace Special Report "Global Terrorism After the War," argued the following in an article titled "Two Years after 9/11: A Balance Sheet":

"…By occupying Iraq, the United States has given al Qaeda a major opportunity to drive home its argument that the 'leader of world infidelity' seeks to destroy Islam and subjugate its believers. This has been at the very core of al Qaeda's message throughout its existence, and the group is now using the example of Iraq to reap gains in the areas of recruitment and fundraising...

The data suggest that the long slow erosion of positive feelings about the United States has given way to a landslide during the period of the war on terror, and especially during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. A long-term U.S. presence in Iraq, a central country within the historic realm of Islam and a longtime seat of the caliphate, will make it difficult to reverse these impressions. Positive perceptions about the reconstruction of Iraq may help, but they will have to be strong ones, widely affirmed by Iraqis themselves, to reverse this trend.

The occupation of Iraq presents other, related dangers in the war on terrorism. First, it seems highly likely that Iraq itself will become a central theater for Islamists seeking to attack the United States. … Iraq will attract those fighters who are prepared to carry on classic guerrilla warfare-as many of the trainees of the Afghan camps are capable of-while those with specific terrorist training will continue to focus on U.S. and Western interests elsewhere..."


Oct. 2003 - Daniel Benjamin, MA