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New US Intelligence Estimate: Situation In Iraq Perilous February 2, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News.

WASHINGTON (AP)–A new intelligence estimate presented to President George W. Bush warns that the perilous security situation in Iraq will deteriorate without measurable progress in efforts to halt the violence.

An unclassified version of the National Intelligence Report on Iraq was to be released Friday. Bush was briefed on its conclusions Thursday.

The administration said the document provided clear and compelling evidence of why the U.S. strategy in Iraq had to be changed. Bush, in a policy reversal, announced on Jan. 10 that he was sending an additional 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq.

The assessment finds that success depends on improving poor security, which is fueling sectarian violence, hurting the government and slowing reconstruction. Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the document had not yet been released, said the document is a rigorous, grave assessment of the situation facing Iraq, but it does reveal areas where change could lead to positive developments.

The report warned of ominous consequences if the violence was left unchecked. “Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this estimate in the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate,” the report said.

The administration saw the document as support for Bush’s new strategy and troop buildup. “Coalition capabilities including force levels, resources and operations remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq,” the report said.

The report offers argues against a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, according to an administration official familiar with the conclusions. Such a move would fracture the Iraqi army, lead to the creation of an al-Qaida state in Anbar Province and result in significantly increased violence.

The administration’s decision to release the National Intelligence Estimate marks a new way of doing business at the National Intelligence Council.

The 12 to 15 high-level estimates that they produce annually contain the best thinking from the 16 U.S. spy agencies. But they are typically classified and have leaked out to the frustration of Bush administration officials.

The report addressed security threats in Iraq posed by both Iran and Syria.

The general conclusion was that the biggest security problem is of a sectarian nature but that outside Iranian involvement makes the situation worse. Similarly, it said that Syria’s failure to control its borders has allowed foreign jihadists to enter Iraq.

“Even 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 political reconciliation” in the next 12 to 18 months, according to key judgments from the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.

In their sober assessment, the government’s top analysts found that the term “civil war” does not capture the complex situation in Iraq, which includes attacks on U.S. and coalition forces and struggles even within Iraqi sects, such as Shiite Muslims.

Yet, the estimate said, the term “civil war” accurately reflects key elements of the problems in Iraq. That includes the hardening of sectarian identities, “a sea change in the character of the violence,” and the displacement of entire populations.


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