TEL AVIV - The war in Iraq did not damage international terror groups but actually 'created momentum' for them to grow, a top Israeli think tank said yesterday.
'During the past year Iraq has become a major distraction from the global war on terrorism,' according to a report by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, whose researchers include retired Israeli generals and senior intelligence officers.
The Iraq war, the report said, 'has created momentum for many terrorist elements, but chiefly Al Qaeda and its affiliates.' Al Qaeda was dealt a serious blow by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the report said, but it recovered as U.S. attention and intelligence resources were redirected to Iraq.
President Bush has strongly expressed a different view, calling the war in Iraq an integral part of the war on terrorism. He has said deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein hoped to develop unconventional weapons and could have given them to Islamic militants across the world.
In a recent Associated Press poll, 52% of Americans surveyed said the Iraq war has increased the threat of terrorism, while 30% think it has decreased it.
Two out of three people polled in Australia, Britain and Italy - countries allied with the U.S. in the Iraq war - said they believe the Iraq war has increased the threat of terrorism, the poll showed.
If the goal in the war against terrorism is 'not just to kill the mosquitoes but to dry the swamp,' said Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli Army general and Jaffee Center researcher, 'now it's quite clear' that Iraq 'is not the swamp.'
The Associated Press"