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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July, 2005, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Did Iraq invasion bolster extremism?
A British tank passes an Iraqi woman in the Basra, Iraq
Nearly 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since March 2003, according to the Iraq Body Count and Oxford Research Group.

The government rejected a report by Chatham House and the Economic and Social Research Council which said that Britain's support for the Iraq invasion had increased the risk of terrorist attacks in this country.

Legislation covering offences of preparing, training for and inciting terror acts has now been agreed and is set to be considered by the Commons and Lords from October.

Sir John Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner has indicated that several thousand young Muslims are believed to have visited training camps in Afghanistan and elsewhere in recent years.

What do you think of the anti-terror proposals? Has the war in Iraq put the UK at increased risk? How can countries like Afghanistan crack down on what are believed to be training camps?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:


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The Iraq war is an excuse not a cause. It seems a little worrying that a section of our society see the installation of democracy and civil rights in Iraq, which they enjoy in this country, as an evil.
Gareth, Swansea, Wales

Just because Libyans were involved in the disgusting acts at Lockerbie and Iranians involved in the embassy siege, doesn't make them acts by Islamic militants or anything to do with Islam.
Ahmed, Birmingham

Yes, I believe that the Iraq invasion did boost the ranks of terrorists. There is no denying that it has lead to increasing extremism and images from Iraq are used as recruiting videos by the terrorists.
Tash, Nottingham

We are having a war, remember, the 'War on Terror'. In a war both sides commit violent acts. We have tanks, an army, and precision weapons. They have household items to make bombs.
Jason, Luton

The war in Iraq only moved the UK and Spain further up their hit list
Griff, Cardiff, Wales
Many people here seem to forget the way Bin Laden and the Taliban tried to erase the Buddhist heritage from Afghanistan and any other "un-Islamic" symbols. The ultimate aim of these zealots is global supremacy in the name of Islam. The war in Iraq only moved the UK and Spain further up their hit list.
Griff, Cardiff, Wales

The anti-terror proposals reinforce the already existing laws related to the planning and commissioning of crime in general. The war in Iraq and the participation of the UK in that war is an irrelevant red-herring, anyone wishing to research the published statements and pronouncements of Osama bin Laden can clearly see that we were firmly on his list of legitimate targets long before Afghanistan or Iraq. Exactly what evidence does the BBC have that terrorist training camps currently exist in Afghanistan?
Bill, Norway

The Iraqi invasion was the primary source of the extremism we are seeing across the world. It's truly unfortunate. The US will not stop interfering with other countries. It all comes down to oil. If Iraq was not an OPEC country I doubt they would have even considered both Gulf wars. I think that if the US wasn't such a bully and was not trying to get involved everywhere most of these fanatics would not be as harsh as they are. As for terrorism, it's here to stay. We have to all be vigilant and remember what day and age we are living in.
Hassan Amidhozour, Tehran, Iran

Either we appease the terrorists by converting to fundamentalist Islam or we oppose them
Albert, UK
So what did the holidaymakers in Bali and Kusadasi do to increase their risk of becoming terrorist targets? Flout sharia law by drinking, listening to music and dressing "immodestly" perhaps. Either we appease the terrorists by converting to fundamentalist Islam, or we oppose them. Pretending it is all about the evil Americans invading Iraq and Afghanistan does no good and can only encourage the terrorists.
Albert, UK

Going to war with Hitler greatly increased our risk of being bombed. That didn't mean we shouldn't have done it.
Peter, Nottingham

A lot of people seem to be repeating the argument that "extremism existed before the invasion of Iraq, therefore the invasion of Iraq did not bolster extremism." It rather worries me that people can fall behind such obviously flawed arguments. If you throw oil on a fire, it will make the fire worse. You cannot simply say "it did not make the fire worse, because the fire was there already."
Dan Hemmens, Oxford, UK

Most people form their opinions on what they think is the general consensus. If the media had not been so anti-war, and instead, portrayed it as a war to free the oppressed people of Iraq, then these young people may have not been so readily persuaded to become suicide bombers. Al Qaeda's whole philosophy is to turn the world in to an Islamic state just like the evil Taliban regime in Afghanistan. People are fooling themselves if they think they are freedom fighters fighting injustice.
Tim H, UK

Modern terrorism is a symptom of the selfishness that bedevils modern life
Adam Williams, Manchester, UK
I think Iraq is a significant factor but I also think that modern terrorism is a symptom of the selfishness that bedevils modern life. If we had proper communities that interacted and people cared about each other rather than themselves society would be stronger. Instead individuals get disaffected and try to impose their will on the world.
Adam Williams, Manchester, UK

Once we get past the false consciousness that these attacks were carried out because of our "free-thinking democracies", we may actually get to the bottom of things. The young men who bombed London were Britons, born and raised here, integrated into British society. They did not, in other words, bomb innocents because they hated our values. Looking at the causes, such as the war on Iraq, of what would drive anyone to radicalism is what we must do, before it is too late.
Mike Walls, Brighton, England, Sweden

Irrespective of whether the Iraq campaign was right or wrong, the attacks on Britain are vicious and inexcusable. Not going to Iraq because of fear of reprisals, would be giving into terrorism.
Andy Blanche, Enfield, UK

The apologists state that the increase in terrorism is because of the Iraq war. In that case how to they explain the fact that both 9/11 and the Bali bombings took place before the Iraq war? They are trying to explain terrorism through rational arguments, without realising that terrorism is meant to be totally irrational.
Tim, Birmingham

Iraq increased the risk by increasing the incorrect perception that we are at war with the Muslim world
Paul Watson, London
Iraq increased the risk by increasing the incorrect perception that we are at war with the Muslim world. This doesn't mean we weren't at risk, before; we clearly were. It doesn't mean the Iraq war was wrong. It certainly doesn't mean the bombings were justified. Just that the Iraq war has made it a lot easier for al Qaeda's message to be believed and therefore increasing the levels of recruits.
Paul Watson, London

What those who deny the link don't realise is that 9/11 occurred because of the first Iraq war and the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia. After the second Iraq war, US troops left Saudi Arabia. Bali was an attack on Australians for their government's support for Bush's war plans. Madrid occurred to push Spain out of Iraq. After the Madrid bombing Spanish troops left Iraq. The terror attacks in Kenya and Tanzania were aimed at US interests and were due to US policies in the Middle East, i.e. Iraq and Saudi after the first Gulf War.
James Wild, London, UK

I see no argument which credibly shows that the invasion has reduced such risks
Bruce Cockerell, Isle of Wight
or me, the jury is out on whether the invasion of Iraq has increased the risk of terrorist attacks; but I see no argument which credibly shows that the invasion has reduced such risks. I hope, without optimism, that democracy, followed by peace, will thrive in Iraq and that this destruction, the vast financial cost and, of course, the desperate loss of life, will have been worth it in the end.
Bruce Cockerell, Newport, Isle of Wight

Of course the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US and UK has made the situation worse and no doubt contributed to further outrages around the globe including London. Blair and his cronies will never admit it otherwise another false justification for their war collapses. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has provided a fertile recruiting ground for the likes of Bin Laden. To use arguments that attacks took place before the Iraq war is a fallacy, it has made the likelihood of terror attacks even greater.
Richard, Axminster, Devon

We must remember that the bombers were born and bred in the UK. They were angered (together with more than half the population) with UK foreign policy, Iraq epitomising the vulgarity of our activities abroad. Had Blair listened to the people and upheld the democratic way of life he claims he is protecting, then these small minority groups who failed to translate their voice into action might not have resorted to such extreme measures to make their point. To say that there is no connection between global politics and religious extremism is plain short-sightedness and shows that Blair is not only ignorant of the sentiments of extreme factions within the Muslim community, but it is also an insult to views held by most British citizens.
Andre Bayuni, London, UK

I am appalled by the number of people who have been persuaded that the invasion of Iraq had something to do with fighting terrorism. There was no link between Iraq and extremist Islamists before the invasion but only the terminally gullible could believe that the invasion did not strengthen their cause and put UK citizens at risk.
Andrew Collins, Wallingford, UK

The bombers were not a product of the Iraqi insurgency
Rob D, South Carolina, USA
Britain has always been the number two target of Islamic terrorists, right behind the United States. Iraq has not changed that one bit. The bombers were not a product of the Iraqi insurgency, but a result of the militant Islam that has taken root in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and sadly in England itself.
Rob D, South Carolina, USA

September 11th happened before Iraq. What are we supposed to do? Sit on our backsides and let the terrorist bomb the West and do nothing? Iraq is just an excuse for them.
Susan, Seattle, USA

The 'decadent' West has always been a target for extremists, the war in Iraq has merely exacerbated the situation.
John Salkeld, Sheffield, England

Have they forgotten that Spain was involved with Iraq until they pulled out? The attack on the US happened before the actual invasion, however we were in their country leading up to that terrible date in history. Yes, involvement has set you at a greater risk.
Scott Thomas, Wisconsin, USA

People seem to put their dislike, or even hatred, of the US above rational thought. I simply don't understand people in the UK preferring appeasement of extremists to our alliance with the US.
Paul B, Oxford

We must take responsibility for the consequences and we must expect a backlash
Dave, West Bromwich, UK
The terrorists themselves have said that they are motivated by Western intervention in the Middle East - particularly with regard to Iraq and Israel. This is not speculation; it is straight from the horse's mouth. Acknowledging their motives is not the same as saying "We were wrong to intervene"; clearly, we were right to do so. But having done so, we must take responsibility for the consequences and we must expect a backlash. Was any government ever in any doubt that the terrorists would retaliate? So why pretend that they're not retaliating now?
Dave, West Bromwich, UK

The war in Iraq has destabilised the region and introduced a new negative. There is a clear correlation between the attacks outside the zone and activities in support of the Iraq War. Spain stood beside the USA and UK and only after the Madrid bombing did the new government withdraw troops from Iraq. During the War, in March 2003, the Turkish government voted to allow US planes to use Turkish airspace to enter Iraq. Perhaps most worrying is the denial by Tony Blair to recognise any potential link.
Mehrd, Tehran, Iran

An amazing amount of people seem to be missing the point. Of course going to war is going to increase the risk. Using any sort of violence in any way always invites retaliation. However, you cannot let your foreign policy be dictated by four weak, narrow minded zealots with explosives in their rucksacks. The fact that the government deny the link is as irrelevant as it is predictable.
Nicholas Manassei, London

Not a single true expert on terrorism would concur that it is the terrorists' goal to destroy our way of life. All they are interested in is retaliatory body count, disruption, making a stand. In all those they have and will succeed. The government is the only one who keeps denying this.
Marc, London

Extremism existed long before the terrorist attacks
Stephen, London
No. Extremism existed long before the terrorist attacks. The Iraq invasion was an attempt to wrestle power away from an evil dictator who was thought to harbour terrorists and who was seeking to gather WMD. The fact is, the terrorist will use any excuse to attack. To cower and live in fear that every move we make will trigger aggressive attacks from them is exactly what they want. We must not give in to them.
Stephen, London

What rubbish! Terrorists attack because they hate. It's as simple as that. September 11th happened without provocation. The attacks on the US embassies in Africa happened without provocation. Now, the terrorists and those who excuse them try to put the egg before the chicken.
Scott, Germantown, Maryland USA

Iraq definitely increased the number of potential recruits to such extremist groups, just as other actions where the West has applied double standards with regard to international affairs have done likewise. The more the West and the UK does not actually apply its stated values in practice, the more recruits will be drawn to the extremists and the more the UK will be at risk. Sadly the actions of the West recently have been the best recruiting campaign for al- Qaeda recently.
Phil, London, UK

The war in Iraq gave extremism an excuse
JM, Oklahoma
The war in Iraq gave extremism an excuse. The US, UK, and other coalition forces are not to blame. Terrorists are the causing factor.
JM, Oklahoma

The unjust invasion of Afghanistan has indeed galvanized more Muslims and led them to believe that there is truth in al-Qaeda's vision as countless Arabs have flocked into Iraq to join the resistance. As good as UK's intentions might have been in invading Iraq, it has actually left Iraq in chaos and while the UK may be good at hunting terrorists, it has become even better at creating them.
Bilal Sultan, New York, USA

The invasion of Iraq was undertaken to remove the threat of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction, not to remove the terrorist threat of al-Qaeda. There was no al-Qaeda presence in Iraq until the invasion - now there is. I strongly believe that the war in Iraq has contributed to the current climate - this has just created another cause for the extremists to rally against.
Katie, Southampton

Chatham House merely points out the obvious, but the British government remains in deepest denial. Blair can't accept the link between Iraq and the bombings because if he did the trial of blame would lead back to his own doorstep.
Tom, California, USA

The one thing we can't do now is withdraw. For better or worse we made the mess in Iraq and it is up to us to clear it up - though heaven knows how.
David, Brecon, Wales

We don't need the Chatham House Report to tell us this. Mr Blair's own intelligence chiefs said that the threat to the UK would increase if he invaded Iraq.
Mark Webb, Dublin, Ireland.

Everyone's a target
Bob, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Whether we invaded Iraq or not would not have prevented us from being a target. Everyone's a target. The important thing to remember about organisations such as al-Qaeda is that the bigger they are, the more bold they become and the more frequently they attack.
Bob, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our own secret service reports before the Iraq invasion said it would increase terrorism. Millions of UK people, many of them Muslim, demonstrated against the war before it started. Close childhood friends of the bomber state Iraq was a major source of their anger. Now the government tells us there is no correlation!
Ralph Williams, Cambridge

I agree that we were a target before we invaded Iraq. However the government trying to deny that the war in Iraq has had no effect on the threat of terrorism is ridiculous. The fundamentalists would have wanted to bomb us anyway but Iraq has created a situation where recruitment and support for the fundamentalists is greater.
Rob, Cardiff

It's an excuse for those who would impose their will on us. It's a ploy to recruit the young and easily influenced. Bin Laden declared war on the West long before the Iraq war and long before Afghanistan.
Liz, Glasgow

I do not think the Iraq invasion bolstered extremism. I do think it gave the terrorists an excuse though.
Shauna, East Fife, Scotland

Bali, in 2002, proved simply supporting the US against Al Qaeda puts countries at risk.
Mark, Cambridge, USA

The bombings were not in the name of Iraq. The root cause of the bombings is down to Islam and how its followers decide to use it. People are very misguided to believe that not attacking Iraq would have prevented an attack from an organisation that does not represent Iraq in any form.
Steve, Letchworth Garden City, Herts

These extremists would have been targeting the UK regardless
Greg, Preston, Lancashire
These extremists would have been targeting the UK regardless. They have an agenda of fear, control and persecution. I fully support what has happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. The extremists are desperate people who can see their control slipping away.
Greg, Preston, Lancashire

The government has come up with good evidence that the war hasn't itself put the country at risk. But it doesn't prove we're not at GREATER risk.
Jonathan Kelk, Dalry, Scotland

There's a very simple theory of cause and effect in everything that happens, be that to us personally or all the way up to a global scale. London would not have been on any terrorist hit-list if it weren't involved in Iraq and wasn't as close to the US as it is.
Christian, London

It should be remembered that the Twin Towers attack occurred BEFORE the Iraq Invasion. The invasion was to end terrorism - it will be a long fight, but worth it in the end.
Rod Watson, Winchester, Hants

To Rod Watson: Yes, the Twin Towers were attacked before the US/UK invaded Iraq - because the US, a foreign power - had based their forces in Saudi Arabia, home of Islam's two holiest sites. Al-Qaeda couldn't care less about Saddam, but Americans in the land of Mecca and Medina was unacceptable.
Dan Tanzey, England

I believe that this country would have been targeted by these fanatics regardless of whether we went into Iraq with America or not. However, there can be no doubt that the decision to go into Iraq has swelled the support for these radicals within the Middle East, and therefore, has also greatly increased the numbers who are willing to make that step and actively take part in terrorism.
Chris, UK

Iraq is the excuse, not the reason
MG, Liverpool
Iraq is the excuse, not the reason. Extremists always need a popular cause to focus sympathy for their actions. They know that if they can generate a degree of passive support they can operate more freely and recruitment becomes easier. That passive support is generated by the perceived injustice over Iraq.
MG, Liverpool

When asked about the resistance met during the occupation of Iraq, George Bush said: 'Bring 'em on.' It seems that his wish has been granted, in London sadly. Anyone who denies the link between what happened in London and what happens in Iraq is in self-denial.
Abdellah, London

The UK may have been a target anyway, but there is no doubt that Iraq made us more of a target than before. Even the JIC/MI6 made this point before the invasion.
Jim, Bristol

Of course the war in Iraq made terrorist attacks on the UK more likely. It amazes me that the government (and some of the public) seem to think that these terrorists have no agenda other than to 'destroy our way of life'. We may not agree with their goals or motivations, but obviously throwing our weight around in what they consider to be Muslim countries is bound to influence their thinking. As Osama Bin Laden himself said, if he was simply against our way of life, why doesn't he attack Sweden? The answer is simple - it's not our way of life, it's a direct result of our actions that have caused this.
Dominic Tristram, Bath, UK

Islamic extremists have always been there and have always been forcing their views on others. Had the UK not invaded Iraq it may have resulted in us escaping the recent London bombings, but we would have been targeted eventually. Bali night clubbers didn't invade Iraq, but they were targeted.
Glen, Welling, UK

Is it pure coincidence that only those European countries who supported Bush have been targeted?
Tom Stephens, Madrid, Spain
As plain as the nose on your face! Is it pure coincidence that only those European countries who supported Bush have been targeted?
Tom Stephens, Madrid, Spain

One of the sidebars here suggests it would be naive to think that if we had not gotten involved, none of this would happen. That is off the point of the question at hand. It is surely naive to think that this involvement in Iraq is not making things far more dangerous for all of us.
Priyaraj, Phoenix, US

At least we're now getting a few more people daring to say that there is a link between Iraq and the bombings. I thought it was me going mad.
Liz Whitehead, Nottingham, England

Any free-thinking democracy or individual is a legitimate target of this kind of extremism.
Craig H, London

We've stirred up a hornet's nest and now we're going to have to deal with it
David, Sunderland
How can anyone deny that the bombings are linked to our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan? The people responsible have stated that much themselves. That's not to say we weren't right to get involved, but let's not delude ourselves - we've stirred up a hornet's nest and now we're going to have to deal with it.
David, Sunderland

The risk of extremist violence has been there since the 70s. It escalated from then on all through the 90s. The Lockerbie disaster, the French UTA plane that was blown up over the Sahara, the Luxor attack etc. The Iraq situation has certainly done nothing to improve things.
Annie, Switzerland/ex UK

Liberating Iraq is often quoted as a reason for the events in London. There are other causes with a deeper history - Srebrenica 10 years ago is a prime example. We would always have been a key target, after all we are one of the permanent members of the UN Security council and we are a prime influencer in Europe. Putting our heads above the parapet made us a target.
Paul Robinson, Grimsby

It's funny to see how many people want to shut the barn door after the horse has bolted! What are we to do? Put Saddam Hussein back in power? Our perceived pro-Israel stance would've got us in trouble anyway.
Leon Condon, Bracknell

The UK's involvement in the attack on Iraq did not cause the London bombings, but it did make it easier for Islamist extremists to recruit people to their 'cause'. To say the Iraq invasion is irrelevant because it happened after 911 is either disingenuous or stupid.
Jon, Southsea

Anyone who says that our foreign policies have not contributed to recent events is being naive
Alan Collison, UK
Anyone who says that our foreign policies have not contributed to recent events is being naive, at the very least. I hope that the government will, as well as bringing in new anti terrorist laws, look to secure our borders, because at present anyone can enter the country without being challenged in any way.
Alan Collison, UK

As a leading Western nation, the UK must always be considered a potential target for terrorists who have some grudge against Western values, Iraq or no Iraq. Iraq has given those terrorists a new focus - i.e. attack those countries involved. As such, I find it difficult to believe that anyone could deny that the war in Iraq had not increased the terrorist threat to the UK.
Lawrence, UK

It probably has contributed to the terror threat that had already germinated. However, such tactics will only serve to alienate the terrorists' grievances from the British public, and does not afford our sympathy.
Andy Bird, Cheshire

To believe we would be immune if we had never became involved seems wilfully naive to me
Sam Gibson, Aberdeen
People seem to be selectively forgetting the attacks on France in '95 and the Luxor attacks on tourists in '97. Islamist terror in the AQ mould stretches back well over a decade. Most attacks have also occurred on Muslim soil, even if the intended targets were usually Western or Jewish in origin. The war in Iraq has undoubtedly made British nationals a more attractive target, but to believe we would be immune if we had never became involved seems wilfully naive to me.
Sam Gibson, Aberdeen

Invading Iraq probably did make us a higher priority target but, personally, I'd say that good arguments against the Iraq war don't normally involve the phrase "Osama bin Laden will get really, really angry with us."
Mike Davies, Bury, Lancs

There is no doubt in my mind that Britain's involvement in the invasion of Iraq makes a terrorist attack on Britain more likely than one on, say, Berlin. Nevertheless, there is no telling what might have happened had Britain NOT been involved in the invasion, or what might have happened if the invasion had not taken place at all.
Martin Smith, London

Iraq had very little to do with this other than to provide an excuse for Islamic fundamentalists
Bill, London
Iraq had very little to do with this other than to provide an excuse for Islamic fundamentalists who despise the non-Muslim West and all it stands for. Had the UK not been involved, another equally pathetic 'excuse' would have been found.
Bill, London

No surprises in this report at all. I disagreed with the Iraq invasion vehemently, but would be even more upset by a government who curbed their activities to meet terrorists' demands. The West needs to change its brutal global policy, not because we fear reprisal, but because it is unethical.
Matt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex. UK)

The UK has always been at risk, as will any country which opposes the aims of Al-Qaeda, so unless you are willing to appease Al-Qaeda you will be at risk.
Malcolm, London, UK

Can anyone name a single incident involving Islamic militants within the UK before the war on terror started?
Rizwan Saleem, UK

Well, how about Lockerbie (1988) for starters?
Simon Greenwood, Grays, UK

In addition to Lockerbie, how about the Iranian Embassy? Short memory!
Simon, London

The invasion probably made an attack happen sooner
Graeme, UK
The invasion probably made an attack happen sooner, but we cannot say whether or not we would have been attacked sometime even if we did not go to Iraq.
Graeme, UK

Let's face facts here. There are some sick people in this world, some under the banner of religion, who want to destroy our Western way of life in any way possible. Whether that's planes into buildings or bombs on the underground. Iraq is just a convenient scapegoat for those who don't believe that the terror threat is real.
Lee, Bicester, UK

Of course it did! No Iraq war, no suicide bombings - here or there! France played ball, defended Iraq and haven't been hit.
Phillip Ellis, Northants

Yes, as well as Afghanistan. Even the intelligence services warned Blair of this, but he continually denies this. As long as he does, we the ordinary people of Britain will be open to attacks like 7/7. Bring the troops home and we will save lives.
Adrian Cannon, Edinburgh Scotland

As Robin Cook said last week on the BBC's 'This Week', to deny any connection is to fly in the face of common sense. Post Iraq terrorist attacks have been predominantly directed at US allies - such as Australians in Bali, the attacks in Spain, and now London. If I was in Italy I would now be worried that I was next on the list.
Phil, Newcastle, UK

Iraq is just one of many factors which contribute to extremism. Therefore to argue that the September 11th attacks on New York occurred before the invasion is flawed. All foreign policy towards Muslim nations & peoples has to be changed as every action has a reaction - it's as simple as that.
Adam, London

Afghan leader in visit to London
19 Jul 05 |  South Asia

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