(CNSNews.com) - Far from reducing terrorism and the number of terrorists, the war in Iraq has led to more terror attacks around the world, according to researchers from the Center on Law and Security and the New York University School of Law.
Their report, scheduled for publication in the March/April issues of the left-wing Mother Jones magazine, asserts that Islamic terrorism has increased 607 percent worldwide since the March 2003 invasion of Baghdad, leading to a 237 percent increase in fatalities from terrorist attacks.
Much of the increase cited in the report arises from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. When attacks in those countries were removed from consideration, the study found a 35 percent increase in the number of attacks and a 12 percent increase in fatalities since the invasion of Iraq.
The study saw an increase of 25 percent in attacks outside Iraq and Afghanistan directed at American or allied targets. In the period between 9/11 and the March 2003 invasion, Islamic terrorists directed 7.2 attacks per year at American or allied targets. Between the invasion and present day, they averaged nine attacks per year.
Report authors Peter Bergen and Paul Cruikshank say the findings refute President Bush's November 2005 assertion that, "If we were not fighting and destroying the enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders."
Bergen and Cruickshank analyzed data from the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism's (MIPT) Terrorism Knowledge Base, which compiles information regarding terrorist activity across the world.
"Our study shows just how counterproductive the Iraq War has been to the war on terrorism," the report states.
"[S]ince the invasion of Iraq, attacks by such groups have risen more than sevenfold around the world. And though few Americans have been killed by jihadist terrorists in the past three years, it is wishful thinking to believe that this will continue to be the case," the report added.
During a discussion of the report Wednesday at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., Cruickshank said that Iraq "is the one big geopolitical event that is out there." The report cites numerous claims by jihadist leaders tying their actions to the war in Iraq.
Jim Phillips, a research fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether the war in Iraq was the motivating factor behind increased terrorism.
"It doesn't necessarily mean that absent the war in Iraq there would not be an increase," he said. "I think they [terrorists] are radicalized by a number of different sources. It's not just Iraq."
Phillips said the increased threat of terrorism that may be the result of the war is a reason to keep troops in Iraq until the country is more stable - not justification for withdrawal.
"While it's true that pictures of Americans fighting Iraqi insurgents does raise the temperature for the radical Islamic community, if the Iraq war ends in a way that is interpreted as a victory for al Qaeda and other radical Islamists, then I think there will be an upsurge of terrorism after the U.S. pullout," he said.
Phillips said the "end result could be even much more terrorism if the war ends in a way that allows al Qaeda to establish a base in Iraq."
To the likely dismay of anyone who would use the report as a rallying cry to support withdrawal, one of the report's authors agrees. Bergen said a complete withdrawal "would be snatching a total catastrophe from the jaws of an enormous blunder."
"These groups need safe havens," he said, explaining that if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq "central and western Iraq might become a launching pad, a mini-Afghanistan in the heart of the Middle East."
Make media inquiries or request an interview with Nathan Burchfiel.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-brief.
E-mail a comment or news tip to Nathan Burchfiel.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.