‘Far from reducing international terrorism... the 2003 invasion [of Iraq] had the effect of promoting it,’ a study by a military think-tank at the heart of the British establishment has concluded. The report by the Royal United Services Institute, ‘Wars in Peace: British Military Operations Since 1991’, concludes that: ‘The rise of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was a reaction to this invasion, and to the consequent marginalisation of Iraq’s Sunni population (including de-Ba’athification and army disbandment).’
‘Today, AQAP and other radical jihadist groups stretching across the Iraqi-Syrian border, pose new terrorist threats to the UK and its allies that might not have existed, at least in this form,’ without the 2003 US-led invasion.
Moreover, ‘there is no longer any serious disagreement’ that the UK’s role in Iraq helped to radicalise Muslims in Britain, while in Afghanistan British soldiers have been confronting a primarily local enemy ‘motivated much more by opposition to foreign intervention than by global jihadism’.
The British government has long justified Britain’s role in the military occupation of Afghanistan on counter-terrorism grounds – a claim dismissed as ‘nonsense’ by the former head of the UN’s al-Qa’eda and Taliban monitoring team (see PN 2523-24).
The 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq is estimated to have resulted in approximately half a million war-related deaths up to June 2011 (see PN2563).
According to RUSI, the net financial cost of the UK’s 10 major post-cold war military operations – which include the 1991 Gulf War, the illegal ‘no-fly zones’ over Iraq during the period 1991–2003, and the illegal bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 – was £34.77bn, with a possible £6bn-£7bn of additional medical and welfare costs.
Overwhelmingly (87 per cent) these expenditures went on Iraq (£9.6bn) and Afghanistan (£20.6bn).
Moreover, ‘the overall [financial] cost of the UK’s activist military posture, and associated expeditionary capabilities well above the European norm, may have added another £100 billion to the baseline over the period.’
According to data compiled by the Stockholm international peace research institute (SIPRI), the UK spent almost £800bn (in 2011 pounds) on the military during the 23-year period from 1991–2013, and remains one of the largest military spenders in the world.