LONDON - The US-led war on Iraq, far from countering terrorism, has helped revitalise the Al-Qaeda terror network, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think-tank warned.
The London-based body said in its annual Strategic Survey 2003/2004 that the deadly train bombings in Madrid in March, the worst terror strike in Europe for more than a decade, showed that Osama Bin Laden's terror network "had fully reconstituted".
It also predicted the Islamic group would step up its anti-Western attacks, possibly even resorting to weapons of mass destruction and targeting Americans, Europeans and Israelis while continuing to support insurgents opposing the US-led occupation of Iraq.
The IISS pointed to devastating blasts in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in 2003 and 2004 as further evidence that anti-US sentiment had soared since the Iraq war.
"In counter-terrorism terms, the intervention has arguably focused the energies and resources of al-Qaeda and its followers while diluting those of the global counter-terrorism coalition that appeared so formidable following the Afghanistan intervention in late 2001," the report said.
However, since the war it said that arms proliferation and state-sponsored terrorism has dwindled, with Libya giving up its unconventional weapons programs and Syria becoming "less provocative."
Stalinist North Korea's secret nuclear programme was somehow contained thanks to a negotiating process while Iran agreed to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency over its nuclear activities, the IISS said.
But another legacy of the war was what the IISS termed a highly questionable recourse to pre-emptive strikes as a means of counter-proliferation, as well as "the uses and abuses of intelligence as a basis for military action."
The IISS said the United States, which has dominated world affairs since the end of the Cold War, had failed to understand that Al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attacks were "a violent reaction to America's pre-eminence" and it urged the superpower to temper "the appearance of American unilateralism".
It warned that Washington would have a hard time restoring order in embattled Iraq and stressed that the conflict had brought a political split between the United States and its continental European allies, leaving Britain stuck in the middle.
The survey additionally forecast a possible attention shift away from terrorism, Middle Eastern problems and weapons proliferation should North Korea opt for a more aggressive stance, a humanitarian disaster hit Africa or undesirable regime-changes "produce abrupt and serious security challenges".
The United States will not manage to tackle all of the above single-handedly, warned the think-tank, raising a question mark over Europe's ability to break away from "strategic arthritis."
Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse