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MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2007
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Iraq: U.S. gift to terrorists?

Saudi Arabia could have suffered its own 9/11 if authorities had not thwarted a plot linked to al-Qaida, the Saudi government said during the weekend. A government spokesman said suicide pilots had been trained in a "troubled country" nearby.

The spokesman, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, declined to say which country. "It could be Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan — there are so many troubled regions in the world," he said. But the question of most interest to Americans is whether it's Iraq.

A religious adviser to the Saudi Interior Ministry, Sheik Majed al-Marsal, said Iraq has become the new Afghanistan, according to an independent newspaper quoted by The Associated Press.

Afghanistan is where al-Qaida was based before its Sept. 11, 2001, suicide airplane attacks on New York and Washington.

Today, the sheik said, terror groups "are exploiting the situation in Iraq, recruiting young men, equipping them and training them and then sending them back to work inside their home countries."

Meanwhile, former U.S. CIA Director George Tenet says in a new book that senior CIA analysts warned President Bush and others in his administration that if Iraq became chaotic after a U.S. invasion, al-Qaida would exploit it. In November 2003, he said, a CIA analyst told the president that "Iraq came along at exactly the right time for al-Qaida." (This account of the book comes from The Los Angeles Times.)

Lack of evidence has discredited the administration's pre-war assertions that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was helping al-Qaida. A different and disturbing kind of evidence is emerging: that the American invasion actually made Iraq a magnet for international terrorists and thus more of a threat to the world.

And the most urgent question now is: Does our continued military presence in Iraq make things worse?

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