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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 08:04 GMT
War 'playing into al-Qaeda's hands'
US troop helicopters in Afghanistan this week
The war could be "deeply counter-productive"
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By BBC News Online's Alex Kirby

Two British scholars say the US strategy for defeating al-Qaeda is in fact having the opposite effect.

They describe the military response to the terrorism of 11 September as "deeply counter-productive".

Unless core issues of marginalisation and disempowerment are addressed, the end result of responding to terror with violence will be increased support for groups like al-Qaeda

Oxford Research Group report

Broadening the war on terror from Afghanistan to Iraq, they believe, could provoke Baghdad into first use of chemical or biological weapons.

Endless conflict, they argue, will be the consequence of meeting terror with violence.

The two academics are Professor Paul Rogers, of Bradford University's peace studies department, and Dr Scilla Elworthy, director of the Oxford Research Group (ORG).

Six months on from the attacks on the US, the ORG has published their appraisal of what has been achieved, entitled Never-ending War?: Consequences of September 11.

The authors say antagonism towards the US from al-Qaeda and its allies had been developing for more than a decade, fuelled by the politics of the Gulf region after the 1991 war against Iraq.

The Gulf holds two-thirds of the world's known oil reserves: US dependence on imported oil rose from 12.5% of consumption in 1970 to 60.9% in 2000.

'Unacceptable control'

The report notes "a widespread belief that the US... [is] exerting an unacceptable control over the Gulf states because of its determination to maintain security of oil supplies".

It contrasts this with an American focus on seeing al-Qaeda "simply as fundamentalists acting from motives of sheer hatred for the US and all it stood for".

In Afghanistan itself, the authors say, Russia has now regained significant influence as a consequence of the war.

They add that far more people, many of them innocent, have died there from the war's direct and indirect effects than in the attacks on New York and Washington.

And they also say that the FBI believes the war has robbed al-Qaeda of only 30% of its capabilities.

The authors say al-Qaeda's aims are to evict Western troops from the Gulf and to replace Saudi Arabia's rulers "with what would be considered a legitimate Islamic regime".

It would have expected the US to respond with great force after 11 September, and to increase its troops in the Middle East and south-west Asia substantially, inciting further anti-American feeling.

This is just what has happened, with sizeable US forces now in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and an initial deployment in Georgia.

Iraqi threat

The authors add: "Moreover, in a development that must be hugely welcomed by the al-Qaeda network, the US has developed a much stronger support for the Sharon Government in Israel."

So the report says al-Qaeda is "substantially capable of further action", and US support for Israel is producing "a widespread anti-American mood".

To attack Iraq "should be expected to lead to the use of any weapons of mass destruction that the regime might be able to muster", with great risk to US forces, Gulf state civilians and Israel.

The report concludes that no state can promote a global economy while at the same time acting exclusively in its own perceived interest.

Nor can the world afford the double standards which allow United Nations Security Council members to have nuclear weapons, but nobody else.

The authors conclude: "Unless core issues of marginalisation and disempowerment are addressed, the end result of responding to terror with violence will be increased support for groups like al-Qaeda, and an expanded cycle of violence."

See also:

11 Mar 02 | Americas
Bush rides high in the polls
10 Mar 02 | South Asia
US scales down Afghan offensive
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