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Why now The question is of course being asked by those opposed to a war against Iraq and those who have not made up their minds But it has also been asked by one of the most senior Whitehall officials at the centre of the fight against terrorism The message was clear the threat posed by Islamist extremists is much greater than that posed by Saddam Hussein And it will get worse when the US and Britain attack Iraq Tony Blair may not want to admit it but this is the common view throughout the higher reaches of government As a leaked secret document from the defence intelligence staff puts it Al-Qaida will take advantage of the situation for its own aims but it will not be acting as a proxy group on behalf of the Iraqi regime Osama bin Laden must be praying for a US assault on Iraq Do we help or hinder the essential struggle against terrorism by attacking Iraq asks the former Conservative foreign minister Lord Hurd Would we thus turn the Middle East into a set of friendly democratic capitalist societies ready to make peace with Israel or into a region of sullen humiliation a fertile and almost inexhaustible recruiting ground for further terrorists for whom Britain is a main target He poses the rhetorical questions in the latest journal of the Royal United Services Institute Blair says now because George Bush says so Put it another way had Washington decided to continue with a policy of containment Blair would have followed suit This too is the common view in Whitehall It helps explain the governments problem in justifying a war Claims that the Iraqi regime is linked with al-Qaida were dropped when ministers failed to provide the evidence Blair and his ministers follow the wind from Washington and then counter public opinion at home First the objective was to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction When the UN
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