UK Foreign Office: It was Iraq

Despite repeated denials by Prime Minister Tony Blair that the Iraq war made the UK a target for terrorists, a letter from Michael Jay, the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary, to the cabinet secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull—obtained by the UK Observer—makes the connection clear.

The May 18, 2004 letter says British foreign policy was a “recurring theme” in the Muslim community, “especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq.”

“Colleagues have flagged up some of the potential underlying causes of extremism that can affect the Muslim community, such as discrimination, disadvantage and exclusion,” the letter says. “But another recurring theme is the issue of British foreign policy, especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq. Experience of both ministers and officials … suggests that … British foreign policy and the perception of its negative effect on Muslims globally plays a significant role in creating a feeling of anger and impotence among especially the younger generation of British Muslims.”

The letter continues: “This seems to be a key driver behind recruitment by extremist organisations (e.g. recruitment drives by groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and al Muhajiroon). The FCO has a relevant and crucial role to play in the wider context of engagement with British Muslims on policy issues, and more broadly, in convincing young Muslims that they have a legitimate and credible voice, including on foreign policy issues, through an active participation in the democratic process.”

Al Muhajiroon, formed by Omar Bakri Mohammed, the radical preacher who fled the UK after the July 7 bombings, was a recruiting organization for young Islamic militants in Britain, authorities say.

Attached to the letter is a strategy document, “Building Bridges with Mainstream Islam,” also obtained by The Observer, revealing further concerns. It says the UK is now viewed as a “crusader state,” on a par with the US as a potential target.

“Muslim resentment towards the West is worse than ever,” says the document. “This was previously focused on the US, but the war in Iraq has meant the UK is now seen in similar terms—both are now seen by many Muslims as ‘Crusader states.’ Though we are moving on from a conflict to a reconstruction phase in Iraq, there are no signs of any moderation of this resentment. Our work on engaging with Islam has therefore been knocked back.”

However, all mention of the Iraq connection to extremism was removed from “core scripts”—briefing papers given to ministers to defend the government’s position on Iraq and terror.

Blair has consistently said that the bombers were motivated not by a sense of injustice but by a “perverted and poisonous misinterpretation of Islam.” Although Iraq was used as a pretext by extremists, he said he believed it was ideology that drove them to kill. To press home the point, Downing Street issued a list of atrocities carried out before intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. The claim was later undermined by the MI5, which said that Iraq was the “dominant issue” for Islamic extremists in Britain. (Via TruthOut)

See our last post on the 7-7 aftermath.