Based on the State Department’s own annual report on terrorism, it seems that the long-anticipated spread of terrorism from Iraq into the rest of the Middle East has begun. According to analysis by Joel Brinkley of the San Francisco Chronicle (thanks to Juan Cole for noting this), the State Department report noted terrorism in Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait, and Yemen provoked by the U.S. occupation of Iraq!
I argued at the beginning of April that:
as long as American troops and bases remain in Iraq, they serve as a convenient target for al Qua’ida and represent an incredibly powerful motivational issue to aid in the recruitment of new members. For this reason, the termination of U.S. military operations in Iraq would constitute an immediate and very significant loss for al Qua’ida. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a gift to al Qua’ida, eliminating an Arab Sunni enemy, creating a convenient battleground, enhancing al Qua’ida’s reputation, and distracting attention from the shattered al Qua’ida headquarters organization. Five years later, al Qua’ida itself has gained time to reorganize, and the chaos flowing out of the U.S. occupation of Iraq has given the al Qua’ida message of global Sunni jihad a huge boost. That the U.S. succeeds in eliminating al Qua’ida from Iraq should come to Americans as little solace: such a victory would only return the situation to what it was after 9/11; Washington invites them into Iraq and then kicks them out. Iraq has been a sideshow for al Qua’ida, but one that brought al Qua’ida much profit.
Now the State Department itself has provided shocking evidence of just how “powerful” Iraq has been as a “motivational issue to aid in the recruitment of new members.” Admittedly, from a certain perspective, that might not be considered bad news: the more al Qua’ida recruits, the easier it will be for the neo-cons to justify a war policy and the greater the profits of the military-industrial complex.
Whatever the actual motivations of current Washington decision makers, the candidates for the White House should be thinking long and hard about what is happening. There has been some public discussion in the U.S. recently about foreign policy chickens coming home to roost. The next administration in Washington will need to construct roosts quickly, for some very nasty, new Bush-bred chickens are going to be coming home.