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Bush likely to get increased support for Iraq war, at least for now
San Francisco Chronicle


July 08, 2005

WASHINGTON - The London terrorist bombings are likely to temporarily strengthen President Bush's hand politically at a critical juncture when public support for the war in Iraq has eroded, but the attacks raise difficult questions over whether that war has made the United States more or less vulnerable to terrorism, analysts said.

"There may not have been a linkage between Iraq and al Qaeda, but al Qaeda has clearly made that linkage, and we've been sucked into what I think is a common war," said Timothy Lomperis, a former military intelligence officer now at St. Louis University. "There is a fusion occurring in what many Americans see as separate - al Qaeda is married to the war in Iraq and it is becoming increasingly one big war."

Analysts said Thursday's attacks in London remind people that the war on terrorism is real, analysts said. That the attacks did not occur in the United States could also bolster Bush, at least for now, some added.

"Something like this reminds people, 'OK, there really is something to worry about out there,' " said Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "At the same time, it didn't happen here."

The London attacks were apparently timed for the G-8 meetings in Scotland. A similar attack last year at a Madrid train station that killed 191 people brought down the pro-American Spanish government and led to Spain's withdrawal from the coalition in Iraq, although a deadly al Qaeda attack aimed at Australian tourists in Bali in 2002 failed in that respect .

Mead said al Qaeda is clearly involved in the Iraq war and is trying to drive out members of the Iraq coalition.

"It suggests either they can't attack the U.S. or they don't think they can impact American policy by doing it. But either way, people (here) are going to say, 'well, at least whatever else is going on in the world, we're not having suicide bombs blowing up buses in Los Angeles or San Francisco.' "

Many politicians and analysts say that the war in Iraq has created a recruiting magnet and base of operations for al Qaeda where none existed before.

To some extent, the linkage of terror with the Iraq war becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy, said Charles Kupchan, a National Security Administration official under President Bill Clinton.

"I think that in the public mind, the attacks will make it easier for Bush to reclaim a certain amount of public support for war in Iraq," Kupchan said. "His ability to link the Iraq war to al Qaeda has proved to be inconsistent with the facts," but "an attack on London will be seen as an attack on the West, requiring that the United States take the offense. And for many that will mean staying the course in Iraq."

Lomperis agreed. "I think what has sustained Bush is that folks out in Peoria essentially do believe in this linkage, and right or not, I think these kinds of attacks only reinforce that foundation to Bush's claim."

Most foreign policy analysts, regardless of their position on Iraq, believe the London attacks will strengthen Bush's hand, at least temporarily.

"In the emotions of the moment, people rally behind the flag, people rally behind the leaders, people rally behind the victims, and they do it instinctively..." said Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland. "As time passes, people look at it more analytically and you start seeing that in the end, you have more terrorism. Al Qaeda has roots in Iraq. Al Qaeda is able to operate from Iraq. Al Qaeda claims to have killed the Egyptian ambassador to Iraq today. They didn't have those roots in Iraq before."


Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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