Memorandum from Mr Steven Simon, Assistant
Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
1. Since the battle against al-Qaeda involves
intelligence, law enforcement and immigration agencies rather
than military forces, a campaign against Iraq should not impede
the so-called "war on terrorism."
2. U.S. forces now or recently deployed
on counter-terrorism missions include less than 1000 troops in
the Philippines, a handful of rotary wing flight instructors in
Georgia, and a naval patrol off Somali waters. (Military forces
administering Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, for example,
are drawn from Army reserve, rather than active duty units.) Personnel
allocated to the counter-terrorism mission are primarily special
operations forces (SOF). These are in fact in short supply and
combat operations in Iraq will require most of them, or so the
current concept of operations would suggest. Nevertheless, their
utility in the war on terrorism at this point is quite limited.
The U.S. has yet to conduct probes of militant camps in contested
areas, such as Yemen or Somaliaoperations that would require
SOFor arrest terrorist suspects, a function for which SOF
are trained, but not yet authorized to carry out.
3. Combat operations in Iraq will require
intensive intelligence support. This theater of operations is
already fully covered by national technical collection assets
as well as fixed wing high and low altitude platforms, including
U-2 aircraft. During wartime, these assets would be augmented
by a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including long
range high endurance models such as Predator. The data collected
by these systems can be integrated and interpreted at USCINCCENT
in near real time by teams separate from those that collect against
the Sunni terrorist target.
4. To the extent that terrorism related
intelligence is collected by tactical assets during combat operations
in Iraq, or in the post-conflict period, it will likely be shared
quickly with CT analysts because (a) operators have become sensitized
to the need for rapid dissemination of threat information and
(b) the force protection implications of such information are
immediate and potentially severe.
5. A campaign against Iraq will nonetheless
affect the war on terrorism in two important ways:
(a) Depending on the pace and scope of allied
occupation of Iraqi territory and seizure of WMD stocks, some
of these weapons or materials might be "privatized"
by enterprising renegade military personnel for transfer or sale
to Islamic militants. Al-Qaeda veterans are numerous in northern
Iraq and would be receptive to such deals. The movement has pursued
a WMD capability since the mid-1990s and possibly earlier. If
it acquired these weapons, al-Qaeda or like-minded militants would
almost certainly use them against Western targets. The group's
spokesman has stated that millions of Americans must die and senior
figures within al-Qaeda are known to have spoken about creating
a "Hiroshima" for the U.S. An alternative scenario,
according to US intelligence, would be the transfer of weapons
or material by the regime itself to militants as allied forces
closed in. In either case, swift identification of WMD sites and
isolation of military units that have weapons or material would
be absolutely essential.
(b) The war will be seen by many Muslims,
especially militants, as evidence of the systematic conquest of
the Muslim world that al-Qaeda theoreticiansand many othersallege
is taking place. This perception will complicate the war on terrorism
over the longer term by increasing the pool of recruits not only
in remote areas, but within the UK and Europe. Recruitment in
the UK has been quite vigorous through the 90s, judging by the
Security Service estimate of 3,000 Britons passing through Afghanistan
and Kashmir in the 1990s for "study" or military training.
A war against Iraq will generate an increase in conversions from
either moderate to more radical Islam practice, or from Christianity
to Islam in local mosques and within HM prisons. If the war is
prolonged, radicalization could lead to attacks on British soil.
A parallel process of radicalization has also been unfolding in
France, Germany and the Netherlands and Belgium. In the short
run, the war will no doubt spur a surge in attacks against US,
UK and French assets in the region as well as opportunistic attacks
against Westerners elsewhere. British diplomatic missions abroad
will be at risk as well as areas or sites frequented by British
tourists, who are perceived by the militants as defying local
mores and tempting local Muslims to transgress religious laws.
Businesses that are believed to be British may also become targets
of spontaneous violence as well as terrorist attack. British military
personnel will also be subject to risks on par with the one they
faced at the height of violence in Northern Ireland.
Mr Steven Simon
International Institute for Strategic Studies