From The Guardian
The effect the war in Iraq has had on motivating Muslims planning acts of violence in the UK is underlined to senior Scotland Yard officers in a private briefing document compiled by anti-terrorist specialists.
The document, marked “restricted”, says the conflict in Iraq has had a “huge impact”. It explains that British policy over Iraq and Palestine is used by terrorists to justify their violence, and early progress in reducing the threat to the UK is not expected.
After the London bombings, British counter-terrorism officials intensified their efforts to understand why some Muslims turned to violence. The document, which has been seen by the Guardian, is the product of that work, and was completed within the past three months before being distributed to senior officers across London. The document says in a headline introducing one section: “Foreign policy and Iraq; Iraq HAS [its emphasis] had a huge impact.”
It continues: “Iraq is cited many times in interviews with detained extremists but it is over-simplistic to describe terrorism as the result of foreign policy. What western foreign policy does provide is justification for violence …”
It says changing jihadist attitudes is a long term issue: “Whatever preventative measures are taken or discussed around the world, none are comprehensive and early results are not expected. Many jihadists do not feel that ‘winning’ is important because God will see to that eventually – what is important is ‘taking part’.”
The report says the removal of grievances the jihadists use to justify violence will take time: “What will change them – gradually – is argument, the removal of justifying causes (Palestine, Iraq), the erosion of perverted beliefs and day-to-day frustrations.”
In a speech weeks after London was attacked, Tony Blair said it was not the Iraq war but an evil ideology that was to blame for attacks on Britain: “If it is Iraq that motivates [the bombers], why is the same ideology killing Iraqis by terror in defiance of an elected Iraqi government? What was September 11 2001 the reprisal for?”
The police document says terrorist anger at UK foreign policy “masks” other motives, which are “insecurity and fear, loss of identity through encroaching secularism and a sense of cultural failure, past and present … Hatred of the west may be characterised as transferred self-blame and self-hatred.
“All that said, though, it is still important to a) continue to explain foreign policy, b) accept failings and disappointing results, and c) remember that a few seconds of film footage showing ill-disciplined behaviour by allied troops has more impact than thousands of well-argued words.”
The last point is believed to be a reference to allegations of UK and US troops ill treating and even killing Iraqi civilians, and to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.
There has been debate among counter-terrorism experts about the extent to which Britain’s foreign policy has made it a terrorist target. One counter-terrorism source said: “We should not slavishly follow the government line. It damages our ability to do our job.”