Friday, 2 February 2007

NIE report confirms Iraqi civil strife

Nothing we didn't already know about the Iraqi civil war, but the US National Intelligence Estimate summary report (PDF) has some interesting insight to offer. Moreover what will be interesting is the potential shock-wave it will send in Washington.

This latest report is proof that even without Iran and other insurgency-inflaming forces there is ample sectarian — 'Iraqi-on-Iraqi' — violence fueling the civil war there.

A long-awaited National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, presented to President Bush by the intelligence community yesterday, outlines an increasingly perilous situation in which the United States has little control and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration, according to sources familiar with the document.

In a discussion of whether Iraq has reached a state of civil war, the 90-page classified NIE comes to no conclusion and holds out prospects of improvement. But it couches glimmers of optimism in deep uncertainty about whether the Iraqi leaders will be able to transcend sectarian interests and fight against extremists, establish effective national institutions and end rampant corruption.

The document emphasizes that although al-Qaeda activities in Iraq remain a problem, they have been surpassed by Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence as the primary source of conflict and the most immediate threat to U.S. goals. Iran, which the administration has charged with supplying and directing Iraqi extremists, is mentioned but is not a focus.

What else makes this NIE different from the rest? It's shift in focus. The United States' intelligence community is quite possibly finally coming out of the shell it ventured into following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. 2002 was neither a good year for American democracy nor was it a good year for American intelligence-gathering.

There is not only a lot of bombs going off in Baghdad, but political bombs in Washington too. How will the report be received by a Congress that seems to be more bark than bite on foreign policy and squaring off with the White House?

One interesting fact: the NIE failed to talk about President Bush's soon-to-be-implemented (probably) 21,500 troop surge in Iraq.

The NIE was a major issue a while back, when calls for that reports full disclosure were being made — obviously something Bush was against.

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