WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The
Iraq war gave birth to a new generation of Islamic radicals and the terrorist threat has grown since the September 11 attacks, according to a U.S. intelligence report cited in The New York Times on Saturday.
A National Intelligence Estimate completed in April says Islamic radicalism has mushroomed worldwide and cites the Iraq war as a reason for the spread of jihad ideology, the newspaper reported.
"The estimate concludes that the radical Islamic movement has expanded from a core of Qaeda operatives and affiliated groups to include a new class of 'self-generating' cells inspired by al Qaeda's leadership but without any direct connection to
Osama bin Laden or his top lieutenants," the newspaper said.
The Times cited more than a dozen U.S. government officials and outside experts with knowledge of the classified document.
It is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by U.S. intelligence agencies since the war began in March 2003 and represents a consensus view of the 16 U.S. spy services.
"According to reports, this intelligence document should put the final nail in the coffin for
President Bush's phony argument about the Iraq war," Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts said.
"... The fact that we need a new direction in Iraq to really win the war on terror and make Americans safer could not be clearer or more urgent -- yet this administration stubbornly clings to a failed 'stay-the-course' strategy."
Some of the estimate's conclusions confirm predictions in a January 2003 National Intelligence Council report that said a war in Iraq might increase support for political Islam worldwide, according to the newspaper.
"It also examines how the Internet has helped spread jihadist ideology, and how cyberspace has become a haven for terrorist operatives who no longer have geographical refuges in countries like
Afghanistan," the Times said.
The National Intelligence Council, the main strategic think tank for the U.S. intelligence community, is in the early stages of preparing a new national estimate on Iraq in response to requests from leading Senate Democrats, including Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record) of Massachusetts, intelligence officials said.
(Additional reporting by David Morgan in Washington)