Another 9/11 `inevitable,' experts conclude

Washington's diplomatic efforts rated 1.8 out of 10
Jun. 15, 2006. 01:00 AM
LYNDA HURST
FEATURE WRITER


Washington is failing to make progress in the global war on terror and the next 9/11-style attack is not a question of if, but when. That is the scathing conclusion of a survey of 100 leading American foreign-policy analysts.

In its first "Terrorism Index," released yesterday, the influential journal Foreign Affairs found surprising consensus among the bipartisan experts.

Some 86 per cent of them said the world has grown more, not less, dangerous, despite President George W. Bush's claims that the U.S. is winning the war on terror.

The main reasons for the decline in security, they said, were the war in Iraq, the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay, U.S. policy towards Iran and U.S. energy policy.

The survey's participants included an ex-secretary of state and former heads of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, along with prominent members of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment.

The majority served in previous administrations or in senior military ranks.

"When you strip away the politics, the experts, almost to a person, are very worried about the administration," says Joe Cirincione, vice-president of the Center for American Progress, the Washington think-tank which co-sponsored the survey.

"They think none of our front-line institutions is doing a good job and that Iraq has made the terror situation much worse."

The findings will be picked up immediately by politicians and policy-makers, he adds: "Just about any one of these people saying this would make news. When the opinions come together, it really carries weight."

Almost 80 per cent of the analysts said widespread rejection of radical Islamic ideologies is crucial if terrorism is to be eradicated, but that goal requires "a much higher emphasis on its non-military tools."

Across the board, they rated Washington's diplomatic efforts as abysmal, with a median score of 1.8 out of 10.


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62% of those polled identify Saudi Arabia as the premier incubator for terrorists
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More than two-thirds said the United Nations and other multilateral institutions must be strengthened.

In the survey's accompanying report, Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, said policy analysts have never been in such agreement. \

"The reason is that it's clear to nearly all that Bush and his team have had a totally unrealistic view of what they can accomplish with military force and threats of force."

Some 82 per cent of participants said a pressing priority for the U.S. is to end its dependence on foreign oil.

"We borrow a billion dollars every working day to import oil, an increasing share of it coming from the Middle East," commented former CIA director James Woolsey.

"In Saudi Arabia, billions are transferred to the Wahhabis and like-minded groups who then indoctrinate young people to hate Shiites, Sufis, Jews, Christians and democracy, and to oppress women horribly."

The analysts were also highly critical of the U.S.'s intelligence and national-security apparatus.

The Department of Homeland Security, created in the aftermath of 9/11, was rated for effectiveness at only 2.9 out of 10. Changes in the intelligence structure were assessed at "poor to fair," with one participant noting that reform "in most cases has produced new levels of bureaucracy in an already overly bureaucratic system."

Almost 62 per cent identified Saudi Arabia as the premier incubator for terrorists.

It has helped halt the flow of money to terrorist networks and now has 30,000 troops guarding its oil fields, but Saudi leaders have been slow to move against extremist elements inside the country, says the report.

Asked what presents the single greatest danger to American security, nearly half the analysts said loose nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Only 4 per cent said Iran.

Cirincione says the fact that so few experts think Iran is a threat and so many regard Iraq as a mistake "turns the administration's policies on their head."

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