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Agence France Presse November 11, 2005

Jordan attacks a setback for US 'war on terror': Experts


Washington: The attacks which rocked Jordan, one of the United States' closest Middle East allies, are a new blow to Washington's "war on terror" aimed at making the world safer, US experts said on Thursday.

"These attacks show that [President George W] Bush's 'We're fighting them in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them elsewhere' is dubious," said Ivan Eland, a defense policy expert at the Independent Institute in Washington.

"The conflict in Iraq is generating more Islamist hatred and providing training and combat experience for people who are now attacking the UK, Spain, Jordan, etc.," Eland said.

In an Internet statement, the al-Qaeda group headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian fugitive from justice and Iraq's most wanted man, claimed responsibility for late Wednesday's coordinated attacks that killed 56 people.

The group vowed to pursue attacks on Jordan for providing a "protective wall" for Israel and US-led forces in Iraq.

David Rothkopf of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington ridiculed the Bush administration's assertion that the United States is fighting in Iraq to defeat global terror as "nonsense".

"It is an argument that has been cooked up when all the other arguments failed," he said.

In August, Bush vowed to continue to fight terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world, "so we do not have to face them here at home".

"The record since we went into Iraq is not one that supports it, if you look at the bombings in Spain and the bombings in the United Kingdom," Rothkopf said.

A senior US military official in Iraq expressed fears on Thursday that Zarqawi could in fact be expanding his attacks across the Middle East.

"We are concerned that Zarqawi intends to spread his actions across the region," Major-General Rick Lynch told a news conference. "We believe that is what we saw yesterday."

Eland said that the extremist Islamists are trying to drive a wedge between the United States and its closest allies.

"In the future, we can expect more attacks on US allies in the Iraq war," Eland said.

Security experts also questioned Washington's focus on Zarqawi as the originator of all the recent attacks.

Richard Falkenrath, a Brookings Institution national security expert, said that Zarqawi's role in the Amman bombings hasn't been proven.

"These are loosely-connected networks and whether he personally had anything to do with this attack remains to be seen," Falkenrath said on CNN television.

Rothkopf warned that in its focus on Zarqawi, Washington could be making a mistake of "over personalising" the attackers.

"What is more important is that the network of Islamic extremists remains in place, remains active and remains capable of delivering very destructive blows in many places in the world," he said.

Rothkopf assailed the concept of the war on terror, "because the implication ... is that there can be a victory."

"Terrorism is an aspect of life, what you want to achieve with regard to terror is individual victories over particular threats and a general reduction in the overall number of attacks over time," he said.

Nevertheless, the White House on Thursday vowed again to win the war on terror.

"The terrorists are trying to shake our will, but they cannot. They will be defeated," said spokesman Scott McClellan.

John Pike, the director of security consultant GlobalSecurity.org, said the Amman attacks show how hard and long the war will be.

"The problem is that these things are just not hard to do. This is not the first hotel attacked and it won't be the last one because they are easy targets," Pike said. “Any place that has to be publicly accessible in order to function and in which people congregate is going to be a target. It is hard to stop."

Copyright 2005, Agence France Presse