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War in Iraq may be fuelling global insecurity, Canadian spy chief warns

By The Brandon Sun

10/20/05 -- -- MONTREAL (
CP) - The head of Canada's spy agency strongly suggested Thursday the U.S.-led war in Iraq is making the world a less secure place.

"Diplomacy is not my field, security and intelligence is," CSIS director Jim Judd said at a conference on intelligence studies. "And I think from a security and intelligence perspective, the conflict in Iraq may be creating longer-term problems, not just for Iraq but other jurisdictions as well."

The head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said Iraq is becoming a "kind of a testbed for new techniques" for Islamic extremists, such as suicide attacks and the use of improvised explosives.

A number of radicals from Canada - fewer than 10 - have slipped across borders to join the fighting in Iraq, Judd said during a break in the annual gathering of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies.

"We know of others who may be planning to," he added.

"I don't think there's anything we can do legally to prevent this."

Judd expressed concern about the dangers extremists from North America, Europe and the Middle East pose once they leave Iraq.

"It raises the longer-term question of what do they bode for the future?" Judd said.

Journalist and author Peter Bergen warned that the war in Iraq could spawn a new generation of trained warriors - the "shock troops of the new international jihad" - determined to carry out terrorist attacks against the West.

Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network has proven alluring to wayward extremists partly because western societies have done a poor job of challenging his arguments, terrorism experts told the conference.

Young students who attend the most radical Muslim schools are presented with a violent world view and taught to despise "corrupting western influences" from an early age, said Karin von Hippel of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"We've lost the moral high ground to the wrong people, and we need to get it back," von Hippel said.

Bergen, a commentator for cable news network CNN, said the next time a westerner is beheaded by Islamic extremists, those who oppose terrorism should stress that the Koran in no way endorses such violence.

Both von Hippel and Bergen took issue with the notion that poverty is a driving force behind terrorism.

"If poverty were really a true cause of terrorism, more terrorists would come from the poorest parts of world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, and thus far this is not the case," von Hippel said.

Bergen said an attack by Islamic extremists on a major city with a radiological weapon - a conventional bomb that spreads radiation over an area of several blocks - "seems probable" in the future.

But Bergen, who once interviewed bin Laden, believes Europe, with a large and continuing influx of Muslims from African and the Middle East, is more likely than North America to experience such violence.

"I think this is where the future of al-Qaida will be, not in Montreal or Washington."

Presenters pointed to history in an effort to put the terrorist threat in perspective.

Stephane Leman-Langlois of the University of Montreal dismissed the assertion, voiced last year by Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan, that the world is more dangerous than at any time in collective memory.

He argued the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War amounted to "a far more scary time" than the possible fallout of the post-9/11 era.

The conference, which continues through Saturday, has attracted about 360 security officials, academics and commentators, including well-known American journalist Seymour Hersh.

Hersh, who has reported extensively about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, said he has become fascinated by what he sees as a neo-conservative coup in the corridors of U.S. power.

He believes the Americans should pull out of Iraq immediately.

2005 The Brandon Sun - All Rights Reserved

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