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2 Now it's official: Iraq's a
mess By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - A long-awaited study by the
US intelligence community released last week
concludes there is little, if any, light at the
end of tunnel in Iraq.
The report, which
came on the eve of an unprecedented Senate debate
on Monday on President George W Bush's plan to add
at least 21,500 troops to the 140,000 US forces
already in Iraq, described the current conflict
there as a "civil war" that could very
easily lead to the country's
de facto partition.
Moreover, even if the
additional US troops succeed in reducing the
violence over the next year to 18 months, progress
toward reaching a political settlement is doubtful
given attitudes among the various Iraqi
communities and their leaders, according to the
report's "Key Judgments", the only part of the
report that was released publicly.
if violence is diminished, given the current
winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities
infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will
be hard pressed to achieve sustained
reconciliation in the time frame of this
Estimate," according to the report, called a
National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).
NIE, which has been six months in preparation and
represents the consensus views of the vast US
intelligence community, also stressed that the
violence in Iraq is internally generated and
sustained, refuting recent suggestions by senior
Bush administration officials that Iran is playing
a major role in support of Shi'ite militias.
"Iran's neighbors influence, and are
influenced by, events within Iraq, but the
involvement of these outside actors is not likely
to be a major driver of violence or the prospects
for stability because of the self-sustaining
character of Iraq's internal sectarian dynamics,"
it said, adding that Iranian "lethal support" for
some Shi'ite groups "clearly intensifies the
conflict" and that Syria has taken "less than
adequate measures to stop the flow of foreign
jihadists into Iraq".
Security Adviser Stephen Hadley embraced the NIE's
key judgments, insisting as well that the
intelligence on which it is based has been fully
considered by the president in devising his new
strategy, including the increase in US combat
strength in Iraq, that he announced on January 10.
"We think it is accurate," he said about
the report's grim analysis, even as he demurred
over the characterization of the conflict as a
civil war. "The intelligence assessment that is
reflected in this NIE is not at war with the new
approach ... the president has developed, but I
would say explains why the president concluded
that a new strategy was required," he told
But critics said deep pessimism
reflected in the report raised new questions about
whether Bush's deployment of more troops would
make much difference.
convincing me that [Bush's new strategy] is the
right approach, the NIE makes it more clear than
ever that the president's plan has little chance
of success," said Congressman Ike Skelton,
chairman of the powerful House Armed Services
Committee, who has called for a phased withdrawal
of US troops over the next year.
at this point, it is difficult to predict how the
NIE will affect the growing debate - and dissent -
in Congress, including among Republicans, over
Bush's plan to send in more troops.
Senate will take up several non-binding
resolutions this week, including one authored by
the former Republican chairman of the Senate Armed
Services Committee, which is considered the most
likely to gain a strong bipartisan majority. It
explicitly disagrees with Bush's plan.
Another report, released last week by the
Congressional Budget Office (CBO), has already
weakened Bush's position by asserting that his
plan, which the administration has repeatedly
insisted will send only 21,500 troops, will likely
result in many more - as many as 48,000 - going to
Iraq when support units are counted.
contrast to administration estimates that its
planned troop "surge" will cost less than US$6
billion, the CBO placed the more