Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Analysts warn Bush must rethink foreign strategy

AFP , KUALA LUMPUR

While some world leaders have hailed the re-election of President George W. Bush as a victory against terrorism, experts caution that his iron-fisted approach has fuelled the flames of anti-US sentiment among Muslims.

Bush's foreign policies had increased rather than reduced the risk of global terrorism, several analysts said yesterday. But they suggested that in his second term he might recognize the need to change his strategy, particularly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"President Bush himself may realize the approach he has been taking may not be all that successful, because there is general agreement that the US, their allies and their friends face a much graver threat than before the September 11 attacks," said terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna.

"He realizes that without the support of the Europeans, without the support of the Asian and Middle Eastern countries, especially the Muslim countries, he cannot persist," Gunaratna said.

Hardline Muslims "will certainly be angry" over Bush's re-election, said Gunaratna, associate professor at the Singapore-based Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies and author of a book on the al-Qaeda terror network.

But for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden "it really doesn't matter whether it is [losing candidate John] Kerry or Bush," he said.

"The hatred [among Muslims] is not towards one president, the hatred is towards the United States because of its policies on Israel," he said.

"I think that President Bush and his advisers have gradually come to realize it is a core issue that needs to be resolved," he said.

"It has been made so clear to him and his advisers and I think if they are not going to take that into consideration in their strategic calculations the United States and their allies will continue to suffer, perhaps in a much more grave way," he said.

In Asia, the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror network remained capable of mounting attacks, "but I doubt very much that they will attack because Bush has been re-elected; they will attack because that is their strategy," Gunaratna said.

Clive Williams, director of terrorism studies at the Australian National University, said that from al-Qaeda's point of view Bush's re-election "is quite a positive development because the mistake the Americans made in going into Iraq has opened up a lot of opportunities for them."

He said he believed Bush's policies would continue to drive more Muslims into the ranks of militant groups.

"The US will be seen to be con-tinuing to be a strong backer of Israel. It'll obviously do more of the same in Iraq, which I think has been counterproductive because the US is winning the battles and losing the war there," he said.

Singapore-based security anal-yst Andrew Tan said there was a chance Bush would moderate his policies during his second term.

"I think most non-Americans and most of America's allies would have preferred a change, given that the first Bush administration made a number of strategic errors in Iraq and elsewhere which have alienated Muslims and complicated the war on global terror," he said.

"The war on terror has to take into account political, economic and social factors and the second Bush administration will I think gradually move beyond unilateralism and the one-dimensional [military] approach to a more multi-dimensional and multilateral approach," Tan said.

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