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WASHINGTON, Feb 9: CIA veterans have warned the Bush administration not to go to war against Iraq as it would further widen the divide between the Western and Islamic worlds and increase terrorism.

In a statement sent to media organizations on Sunday, retired CIA officials also referred to a CIA assessment report issued in autumn 2002, which, they said, had opposed a military offensive against Iraq.

They urged the Bush administration to “re-read” the CIA report that pointed out, “The forces fuelling hatred of the United States and fuelling Al Qaeda recruiting are not being addressed, and that the underlying causes that drive terrorists will persist.”
That CIA report cited a Gallup poll last year of almost 10,000 Muslims in nine countries in which respondents described the United States as “ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked and biased.”

Terrorism, the CIA veterans said, is like malaria. You don’t eliminate malaria by killing the flies. Rather you must drain the swamp. With an invasion of Iraq, the world can expect to be swamped with swamps breeding terrorists. In human terms, your daughters are unlikely to be able to travel abroad in future years without a phalanx of security personnel.

Referring to US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation at the UN last week, the veterans said, “We give him an “A” for assembling and listing the charges against Iraq, but only a “C-” regarding context and perspective.

Powell, they said, effectively showed that Iraq is not cooperating fully with UN Security Council resolution 1441 but the narrow focus on resolution 1441 has diverted attention from the wider picture.

The key question, they said, is whether Iraq’s flouting of a UN resolution justifies war. “Secretary Powell’s presentation does not come close to answering it,” they observed.

“One might argue that there is more urgency to retaliating against the violator of Resolution 1441 than, say, of Resolution 242 of 1967 requiring Israel to withdraw from the Arab territories it occupied that year. More urgency? You will not find many Palestinians, or Arabs who would agree,” the statement said.

The CIA veterans observed that “Israel’s continuing encroachment on Arab territories, its undisguised oppression of the Palestinian people, and its pre-emptive attack on Iraq in 1981 are among the root causes not only of terrorism, but of Saddam Hussein’s felt need to develop the means to deter further Israeli attacks.”

Secretary Powell dismisses this factor far too lightly with his summary judgment that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction are not for self-defence, the veterans said.

Challenging the perception that Iraq is a grave threat to the United States, the veterans urged the Bush administration to reconsider its Iraq policy, as presenting Iraq as a threat to the world’s only superpower did not sound very convincing.

The veterans referred to an Oct 7, 2002 letter the CIA sent to the Senate Intelligence Committee in which the agency said that the probability is low that Iraq would initiate an attack with weapons of mass destruction or give them to terrorists unless: Should Saddam conclude that a US-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would be come much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions.

For now, continued the CIA letter, Baghdad appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical/biological warfare against the United States. With his back against the wall, however, Saddam might decide that the extreme step of assisting terrorists in conducting a weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.

“It is our view that an invasion of Iraq would ensure overflowing recruitment centres for terrorists into the indefinite future. Far from eliminating the threat it would enhance it exponentially,” the CIA veterans warned.

MALAYSIA: Organisers of a peace campaign in Malaysia have successfully collected more than a million signatures of people opposed to a US attack on Iraq, a report in Kuala Lumpur said on Sunday, AFP adds.

Mohamad Ali Rustam, president of the national 4B youth movement, said the aim of the campaign was to demonstrate to the world that Malaysians are peace-loving.

LEBANON: An overwhelming majority of Lebanese oppose any US-led war against Iraq, and would be unhappy if Arab nations took part, according to a new poll published Sunday in Beirut, AFP adds.

According to the survey in An-Nahar daily, 90.8 per cent of people here reject the idea of a campaign to disarm Iraq of its alleged weapons of mass destruction and oust its leader Saddam Hussein.

Just 2.2 per cent of the 600 people questioned were in favour, while seven per cent expressed no opinion.

On the question of Arab states taking part in a second Gulf war, 75.8 per cent said they were opposed, while 15.7 per cent said they were not. The remainder expressed no opinion.

A full 64 per cent said they believed US President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy was motivated by a desire to control the region’s oil wealth.

Just 14 per cent said they believed Bush’s aim was to destroy Baghdad’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.