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THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2007
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EDITORIAL

Unintended consequence: U.S. funding radical Islam

What was the harm of using the Sept. 11 attacks as a justification to attack Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? Even if he had no ties to the terrorists, Saddam was a brutal dictator.

But that brutal dictator managed to keep radical Islamists in check, providing a delicate balance in the region.

Now with the balance disrupted, Sunnis and Shiites are vying for power in the Middle East. By toppling the moderate Sunni government in Iraq, the United States has strengthened Shiite interests in the region — most notably Iran.

To keep the Iranians and other radical Shia groups in check, the Bush administration funneled billions of dollars, as well as clandestine support, to the Siniora government in Lebanon to bolster Sunni interests, according to a lengthy investigative report by Pulitzer prize-winner Seymour Hersh in the current issue of The New Yorker. In turn, the Siniora government distributed some of that aid to Sunni radical groups in northern Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and around Palestinian refugee camps in the south. Those groups have ideological ties with al-Qaida.

The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Sunni branch that is an avowed enemy of the U.S. and Israel, also benefited from U.S. support, according the report.

A former senior intelligence official and U.S. government consultant told Mr. Hersh: “In this process, we’re financing a lot of bad guys with some serious potential unintended consequences.”

The problem, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and senior State Department official Martin Indyk told Mr. Hersh, is “The president sees the region as divided between moderates and extremists, but our regional friends see it as divided between Sunnis and Shia. The Sunnis that we view as extremists are regarded by our Sunni allies simply as Sunnis.”

So as the Sunni-Shia Cold War heats up, the United States finds itself providing billions of dollars in aid to “Islamofascists” with ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers.

This is the harm of using the Sept. 11 attacks as a justification to attack Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

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