A United States invasion of Iraq will have terrible consequences - inflaming the Middle East and provoking more terrorist attacks on America, a former United Nations weapons inspector warns. Scott Ritter, in a new book written with Middle East expert William Rivers Pitt, attacks arguments used by the US to justify an invasion of Iraq. In War on Iraq: What team Bush doesn't want you to know, Mr Ritter says the US case for war against Iraq ''has not been made''. ''It is doubtful in the extreme that Saddam Hussein has retained any functional aspect of the chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programmes so thoroughly dismantled by the United Nations weapons inspectors who worked tirelessly in Iraq for seven years.'' Mr Ritter, who worked as a UN weapons inspector for seven years until 1998, said Iraq had been co-operating with inspectors. ''If this were argued in a court of law, the weight of evidence would go the other way. Iraq has, in fact, demonstrated over and over a willingness to co-operate with weapons inspectors.'' Mr Ritter also disputes US claims of a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda - the terrorist organisation believed responsible for the September 11 attacks on the US. ''The idea that Hussein has connections to fundamentalist Islamic terrorists is laughable - he is a secular leader who has worked for years to crush fundamentalist Islam. ''There are no facts to back up claimed connections between Iraq and al Qaeda. Iraq has no history of dealing with terrorists of this nature. It does have a history of using terrorism as a tool, but it's been used by Iraqi terrorists primarily focused on Iran, Syria and Iraqi opposition members abroad.'' Mr Ritter fears war with Iraq will lead to more terrorism. ''War on Iraq would inflame the Middle East to such a disastrous degree that the war on terror would spin out of control. Further terrorist attacks on America would be a foregone conclusion. We will not get approval from the United Nations or the international community for this war, and our unilateral action will disgrace us across the globe. Even if we were able to depose Saddam Hussein without that region flying apart at the seams, his replacement would be no better.'' Mr Ritter is a Republican party member who voted for George W. Bush in 2000. But he is contemptuous of right-wing hawks or ''neo-conservatives'' in the Bush Administration who have been staunchly advocating a war with Iraq. They include Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy-Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz and Chairman of the Defence Policy Board at the Pentagon Richard Perle. ''After Bush failed to get the mandate he needed in the  election to reach out and bring in Democrats and more moderate voices, he had to fall back on his neo-conservative base, which suddenly empowered these fringe thinkers. These people are definitely not representative of mainstream thinking here in America. They now have their hands on the reins of government... [and] especially the Pentagon. ''[Previously] Donald Rumsfeld was politically dead. No one thought of Donald Rumsfeld as having any potential. Paul Wolfowitz was seen as a raving lunatic of the far right, Richard Perle is not called 'The Prince of Darkness' without cause. These are three people who seemed destined to spend the rest of their political lives sniping from the fringes, as they'd done for the previous decade. And now suddenly, they are running the show.'' Mr Ritter, a former US Marine with combat experience, also says a military operation against Iraq carried great risks. ''First, there's a good chance this whole military operation will fail, because it has so many built in assumptions: a) the Iraqi army won't fight b) the Iraqi population will rise up: and c) once we demonstrate our seriousness about removing Saddam, the international community will rally around us. ''If we go into Iraq, we are going to have to win quickly. We aren't going to have the latitude for a long, drawn-out campaign. If the Iraqis can delay our action for any amount of time - a month, two, if Saddam can hang on - the Arab world will explode in a way we've never seen, a way that will make 9/11 look like a kid's game. ''And if we suffer casualties, we're going to have a political disaster here in the United Sates. When you combine international condemnation with a disgruntled American populace, the President is going to be deeply embattled.'' Mr Ritter predicts it will be virtually impossible to establish a democratic government in Iraq. ''It's ludicrous for Donald Rumsfeld and others to talk about democracy in Iraq. The western democratic model is based on majority rule. But in Iraq, 60 per cent of the population are Shi'a Muslims, theocratically aligned with Iran. Iran is, of course, a hotbed of anti-American Islamic fundamentalism. Iraq is a nation with the second largest proven reserves of oil. The idea of a democracy in Iraq where the Shi'a take control - meaning that these two large oil producers are theocratically aligned - is something not many people want. We really don't want democracy in Iraq because we don't want the Shi'a to have control.... ''It is all absurd anyway. You can't impose democracy from the outside. That doesn't work. Iraq has to make the transition internally and that takes decades. The only way that can happen, the only way there can be a birth of democracy is to lift economic sanctions and allow Iraq to reconstruct itself economically. The development of a viable middle class that cuts across religious, ethnic, and tribal lines is the only thing that can give birth do democracy,'' he says. Mr Ritter says the only solution to the crisis will take ''time, patience and the loss of some political capital for George W. Bush''. ''Cultural change in Iraq will take decades, and will not happen at all while the people live in poverty. We must lift the sanctions against Iraq and allow its people to become once again the first world nation they were before Hussein's disastrous engagements with Iran and Kuwait. In exchange for this largesse, which would be a mercy for the civilians, Saddam Hussein must accept without precondition the reinsertion of UN weapons inspectors. This will guarantee that Hussein cannot develop any technology that threatens the region or America. As the standard of living improves for Iraqi civilians, as a viable middle class is created, the cultural and economic schisms that have defined Iraq will begin to disappear. The power of Saddam Hussein will wane. ''The alternative is a disastrous war, tens of thousands of civilian casualties, hundreds of thousands of American casualties, the condemnation of the international community, a deadly explosion of rage in the Muslim world and a new Iraqi leader who will in no way be an improvement over the current one.''