Published on
the Telegraph/UK

Bush Told Iraq War Has Helped al-Qa'eda

Tim Shipman

WASHINGTON - President George W Bush was facing increasingly blunt criticism of his Iraq policy last night as a US intelligence report suggested that the war has made al-Qa'eda attacks on American soil more likely.

Senator George Voinovich, a close ally of Mr Bush, delivered a withering assessment of the situation in Iraq, declaring that the Bush administration had "f****d up the war". 0718 06The Ohio senator revealed that he warned Karl Rove - the President's chief political adviser - last week that Mr Bush must devise a new plan for Iraq or he would vote with Democrats on Capitol Hill to withdraw troops from Iraq.

He spoke out as a declassified National Intelligence Estimate of the terrorist threat to the US indicated that the Iraq war has helped al-Qa'eda "raise resources and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for homeland attacks".

The document, which represents the considered views of 16 US intelligence agencies, appeared at odds with Mr Bush's repeated claims that America must prosecute the war in Iraq to prevent terrorists "following us home" with attacks in the US. The three-page report, two pages of which were released to the public, argues that "al-Qa'eda will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa'eda in Iraq".

The findings echo similar assessments of the terror threat from British spy chiefs.

They inflamed an already febrile atmosphere in Congress, where Mr Bush is haemorrhaging support from Republicans.


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Mr Voinovich had previously indicated that he would delay any vote to leave Iraq until September, when General David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, reports to Congress on the status of his surge strategy. But Mr Voinovich shocked political Washington, where personal criticisms and profanity are generally more muted than in Westminster, with the vehemence of his views - which he stated in the halls of the senate. Mr Voinovich, who meets Mr Bush and his inner circle regularly, revealed that he told Mr Rove the President must change course, or face a new mutiny.

"The President is a young man and should think about his legacy. He should know history will not be kind unless he can come up with a plan that protects the troops and stabilises the region," he said.

He said other Republicans were close to speaking out against the President's current strategy. "I have every reason to believe that the fur is going to start to fly, perhaps sooner than what they may have wanted," he said.

Mr Voinovich is not the only ally of the President losing faith. Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, owned by the hitherto loyal businessman Richard Mellon Scaife, branded the Bush administration's plans to stay the course in Iraq a "prescription for American suicide". In an editorial, the paper condemned Mr Bush's performance at a press conference last week, in which he vowed to press on with the surge, saying "we had to question his mental stability".

Democrat leaders last night ordered the Senate into an all-night session in an attempt to force Republicans to back a motion calling for troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of April 2008. Later this week another motion, proposed by the Republican senators Richard Lugar and John Warner and calling on Mr Bush to get a new strategy in place by mid-October, is also due for debate.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2007.

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