The government has known since 2003 that the failed ‘war on terror’ would cause an attack like the one in Manchester
Patrick Cockburn - Indy
Jeremy Corbyn is correct in saying that there is a strong connection between the terrorist threat in Britain and the wars Britain has fought abroad, notably in Iraq and Libya. The fact that these wars motivate and strengthen terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda and Isis has long been obvious to British intelligence officers, though strenuously denied by governments.
The real views of British intelligence agencies on the likely impact of Britain taking part in wars in the Middle East are revealed in a Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) assessment dated 10 February 2003, just before the start of the invasion of Iraq led by American and British forces. It is marked “top secret”, but was declassified for use by the Chilcot Inquiry and, though it was referred to by several publications, attracted little attention at the time.
The first words of the assessment by JIC say: “the threat from al-Qaida will increase at the onset of any military action against Iraq. They will target Coalition forces and other Western interests in the Middle East. Attacks against Western interests elsewhere are also likely, especially in the US and UK, for maximum impact. The worldwide threat from other Islamist groups and individuals will increase significantly.”
An earlier JIC assessment dated 10 October 2002 and also declassified by Chilcot says: “Al Qaida and associated groups will continue to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests and that threat will be heightened by military action against Iraq.”
Corbyn is saying almost exactly the same today as JIC predicted in 2003. He cites with approval experts pointing to “the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home". He adds that their assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children, but that an informed understanding is essential in order to fight rather than fuel terrorism.
The JIC conviction about the benefits to al Qaeda of the Iraq war was swiftly born out after the invasion as it expanded from being a small group of militants, perhaps less than a thousand-strong based mainly in the mountains of southern Afghanistan and north west Pakistan, into a global movement. Al Qaida in Iraq, taking advantage of the destruction of the Iraqi state, developed into one of the most powerful and influential terrorist movements in history, and later transmuted in Iraq and Syria into Isis.
Corbyn says that “we must be brave enough to admit ‘the war on terror’ is simply not working”, adding that "we need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism." Again, this is demonstrably true as vast resources have been poured into waging the ‘war on terror’ since 9/11, but Isis, al-Qaeda and similar Salafi jihadi movements are far stronger now than they were then. They have powerful military forces fighting in at least seven wars – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, North-East Nigeria – as well as in insurgencies, large and small, such as in Sinai and North-West Pakistan. Individuals and cells carry out terrorist attacks everywhere from Orlando to Baghdad and Berlin to Mogadishu.
Seldom has a war been so comprehensively and visibly lost as ‘the war on terror’ and it is doing a favour to Isis and al-Qaeda not to recognise this and try for something better. Yet critics of Corbyn have unconsciously doing such a favour to al-Qaeda by demanding he stay silent. In a crass but unintentionally revealing interview, the Conservative Security Minister Ben Wallace claimed that Corbyn's timing was "appalling". He said that “we have to be unequivocal, that no amount of excuses, no amount of twisted reasoning about a foreign policy here, a foreign policy there, can be an excuse. The reality is, these people hate our values.”