Fri, Jan 21, 2005 - Page 9 News List

The `war on terror' is earning mixed reviews


As US President George W. Bush prepares to take his second oath of office this week, his `war on terror' -- the focus of his first term -- has earned mixed reviews from experts abroad, especially with respect to Iraq.

While analysts have hailed improved international cooperation among police and intelligence agents, they say the flood of foreign volunteers ready to wage jihad against US troops in Iraq poses a global long-term threat.

"The results of the `war on terror' have been rather negative, but not entirely," said Francois Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.

"In terms of concrete action stemming from this policy, we can look to all the measures put in place after Sept. 11 in terms of international anti-terror cooperation, which have borne fruit," Heisbourg said.

But in Iraq, Heisbourg said, "we're seeing the establishment of a massive recruitment and training platform for international terrorists.

"Dozens of Europeans and hundreds, even thousands, of nationals from neighboring Arab states are getting training and expertise. They're firing real bullets every day. It's really, really serious," he added.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a key US ally in the Arab world, said on Sunday in an interview with Arabic news channel al-Arabiya that the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 had made the country a more dangerous place.

"No, Iraq is not safer," he said. "Terrorism is on the increase, the militant groups are more numerous, they are dangerous for both them [the US] and us.

"I fear that Iraq has become an open country for terrorists," he said.

Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland, pointed out that Bush's "war on terror" has yielded some encouraging results.

"On the positive side, we have learned a lot more about the target range, the decision-making and the structure of the old al-Qaeda," he said.

"Tactically, we've had some success in preventing a major attack, for example in Europe," Ranstorp said, but cautioned: "We may win individual and tactical battles, but strategically we're losing the war."

He said Bush's efforts to stamp out terrorism worldwide had in fact "fueled al-Qaeda as an idea, as an ideology."

"We're fighting and we are not doing very well. A foreign policy like [that conducted by Bush in] Iraq actually generates more problems than it solves," Ranstorp concluded.

Mark Heller, an analyst at the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, offered some praise for Bush, saying: "At the international level, it's more difficult for terrorists to operate than before Bush became president."

While he said there is now "a lot of terrorism in Iraq which didn't exist there before," he noted: "I don't have any sense, however, that Iraq has become a source of export of terrorism to other parts of the world. It seems that more terrorists are going to Iraq than coming from Iraq."

Like many experts in the Arab world, Algeria's Hasni Abidi, director of the Geneva-based Study and Research Center for the Arab and Mediterranean World, said terrorism is "not a security problem, but a political problem."

"America has succeeded in exporting its `maximum security' approach: it confronts problems with more resources on the security front, to the detriment of a social, political and economic approach that would attack problems at the source," Abidi said.

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