Tuesday, September 21, 2004

MADRID. — Before the Iraqi war, Europe’s principal intelligence services shared the Bush administration’s view that Saddam Hussein was hiding his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Today, these same services disagree with the White House on several critical assessments.

Off-the-record conversations with intelligence chiefs in five major European countries — each with multiple assets in Iraq — showed remarkable agreement on these points:

• The neocon objectives for restructuring Iraq into a functioning model democracy were a bridge too far. They were never realistic.

• The plan to train Iraqi military and security forces in time to cope with a budding insurgency before it spun out of control was stillborn.

• The insurgency has mushroomed from 5,000 in the months following collapse of Saddam’s regime to an estimated 20,000 today and still growing. Insurgents are targeting green Iraqi units and volunteers for training, and some have already defected to the rebels.

• Iraqi soldiers trained by the U.S. are complaining the equipment ordered by the U.S. from Ukraine being assigned to them gives them “second-class status.”

• To cope with the insurgency, the U.S. requires tenfold the rebel strength — or some 200,000 as a bare minimum. Short of that, the insurgency will continue gaining momentum. The multiple is based on the British experience in Northern Ireland for a quarter-century as well as France’s civil war in Algeria (1954-62), when nationalist guerrillas were defeated militarily, but won the war diplomatically. France deployed half a million men to defeat the fellaghas in Algeria.

• The U.S. occupation has lost control of large swathes of Iraq where the insurgency operates with virtual impunity.

• Iraq was a diversion from the war on a global movement that was never anchored in Baghdad.

• Iraq does not facilitate a solution to the Mideast crisis. And without such a solution, the global terrorist movement will continue spreading.

• Iraq has become a magnet for would-be Muslim jihadis the world over; it has greatly facilitated transnational terrorism.

• Charting a course out of the present chaos requires an open-ended commitment to maintain U.S. forces at the present level and higher through 2010 or longer.

• The once magnificent obsession about building a model Arab democracy in Iraq now has the potential of a Vietnam-type quagmire.

• Everything now undertaken in Iraq is palliative to tide the administration over the elections.

• What is urgently needed, whether a Bush II administration or a Kerry White House is for the world’s great democracies to meet at the summit to map a common strategy to confront a global challenge. The war on terrorism — on the terrorists who have hijacked Islam — is only one part of a common approach for (1) the defense of Western democracies and (2) the gradual transformation of an Arab world that must be assisted out of poverty, despair and defeat.

• A war on terrorism without a global strategy, which must include funding major educational reforms in poor countries like Pakistan, where wannabe jihadis are still being churned out by the hundreds of thousands, could only lead to the gradual erosion of Western democratic structures.

• The “war on terror” is a misnomer tantamount to rhetorical disinformation. One can no more fight terrorism than one could declare war on Adolf Hitler’s Panzers in World War II or Dreadnoughts in World War I. Terrorism is a weapons system that has been used time and again for the last 5,000 years. The root causes are the problem, not the weapon.

• Ignoring the causes guarantees escalation — to weapons of mass destruction.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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