Mark Lavie of Jaffe Center, Tel Aviv Univ, 10/12/2004
THINK TANK: IRAQ WAR DISTRACTED U.S.
By Mark LaVie
October 11, 2004
TEL AVIV, Israel — The war in Iraq did not damage international terror
groups, but instead distracted the United States from confronting other
hotbeds of Islamic militancy and actually "created momentum" for many
terrorists, a top Israeli security think tank said in a report released
President Bush has called the war in Iraq an integral part of the war on
terrorism, saying that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hoped to develop
unconventional weapons and could have given them to Islamic militants across
But the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University said that
instead of striking a blow against Islamic extremists, the Iraq war "has
created momentum for many terrorist elements, but chiefly al-Qaida and its
Jaffee Center director Shai Feldman said the vast amount of money and effort
the United States has poured into Iraq has deflected attention and assets from
other centers of terrorism, such as Afghanistan.
The concentration of U.S. intelligence assets in Iraq "has to be at the
expense of being able to follow strategic dangers in other parts of the
world," he said.
Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli army general, said the U.S.-led effort was
strategically misdirected. If the goal in the war against terrorism is "not
just to kill the mosquitos but to dry the swamp," he said, "now it's quite
clear" that Iraq "is not the swamp."
Instead, he said, the Iraq campaign is having the opposite effect, drawing
Islamic extremists from other parts of the world to join the battle.
"On a strategic level as well as an operational level," Brom concluded, "the
war in Iraq is hurting the war on international terrorism."
In other findings, Jaffee Center experts disagreed with the Israeli
government's statements that its four-year struggle against Palestinian
militants is part of the world fight against Islamic terrorism.
Yoram Schweitzer, who wrote the chapter about the Iraq war, said the local
conflict is a "national struggle," while international Islamic militant groups
like al-Qaida target not only Israel but also the entire Western world.
After interviewing Palestinian militants, including some in prison, Schweitzer
said they do not consider themselves part of the al-Qaida campaign. "Many of
them are critical of Al-Qaida and its methods," he told a news conference.
The Jaffee report found that Israel has succeeded in reducing Palestinian
violence against Israelis.
Feldman said the motivation of Palestinian militants to attack the country
remained unchanged, but praised the work of military intelligence in
preventing many attacks.
"The only reason these (anti-terror) operations succeed is that we have better
intelligence," he said.
Feldman said the weekend attacks in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula aimed at
places where Israelis gather did not figure in to the assessment. Thirteen
Israelis were among at least 34 people killed in two car bomb attacks
"We regard the attacks in the Sinai in a different category," he said,
likening it to an attack at a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, last year that killed
10, including three Israelis.
The report includes statistical breakdowns of the military forces and their
capabilities in the Middle East, as well as analyses of regional issues.