2007 February 04 Sunday
National Intelligence Estimate Paints Bleak Iraq Picture

Portions of the January 2007 US government National Intelligence Estimate "Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead” have been made public and the New York Times has published them. It is no worse than anything you have already heard. But it comes from supposed experts and government officials. First off, the NIE sees continued decay in security in Iraq as likely unless some way is found to turn it around.

Iraqi society’s growing polarization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides’ ready recourse to violence are collectively driving an increase in communal and insurgent violence and political extremism. Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006.

The US troop surge might delay the downward trend for a while. But eventually the surge will end and the fighting will continue to escalate.

What the NIE misses: A stronger government isn't going to be a fairer government.

If strengthened Iraqi Security Forces (I.S.F.), more loyal to the government and supported by coalition forces, are able to reduce levels of violence and establish more effective security for Iraq’s population, Iraqi leaders could have an opportunity to begin the process of political compromise necessary for longer term stability, political progress, and economic recovery.

But loyalty to the government is not all that different than loyalty to a Shia militia. The Iraqi government is basically the biggest Shia militia. The next paragraph from the report says something similar.

Nevertheless, 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 time frame of this estimate.

Winner-take-all? That's what any battle for the Iraq government is about.

The Shias do not want to share power with the Sunnis. The Sunnis do not want to admit that they are not the majority. These two paragraphs describe problems that US forces can not fix.

Decades of subordination to Sunni political, social, and economic domination have made the Shia deeply insecure about their hold on power. This insecurity leads the Shia to mistrust U.S. efforts to reconcile Iraqi sects and reinforces their unwillingness to engage with the Sunnis on a variety of issues, including adjusting the structure of Iraq’s federal system, reining in Shia militias, and easing de-Baathification.

Many Sunni Arabs remain unwilling to accept their minority status, believe the central government is illegitimate and incompetent, and are convinced that Shia dominance will increase Iranian influence over Iraq, in ways that erode the state’s Arab character and increase Sunni repression.

While the Arabs duke it out the Kurds busily work to assure their autonomous zone is as large as they can make it.

The Kurds are moving systematically to increase their control of Kirkuk to guarantee annexation of all or most of the city and province into the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) after the constitutionally mandated referendum scheduled to occur no later than 31 December 2007. Arab groups in Kirkuk continue to resist violently what they see as Kurdish encroachment.

The Kurds have de facto seceded from Iraq already. I say we let them secede officially. That way at least one of the factions will see us as friends.

The report states that the Sunni jihadist group Al Qaeda in Iraq (A.Q.I.) and Shia oppositionist Jaysh al-Mahdi (J.A.M.) are blowing up things and people on a scale that is feeding the cycle of sectarian violence. The recent bombing that killed at least 130 people in a market shows one of these groups knows how to fan the flames.

The next part of the report sounds like a list of talking points for why the US should do a troop surge.

If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the I.S.F. would be unlikely to survive as a nonsectarian national institution; neighboring countries — invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally — might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; A.Q.I. would attempt to use parts of the country — particularly Al Anbar Province — to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and political disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion.

Dennis Dale thinks the worst case scenario for Iraq is coming from the same people who have been wrong and dishonest all along.

The newest trend in conventional wisdom regarding Iraq, going as unexamined by the major media as every previous stage of denial masquerading as incontrovertible fact regarding this war, reads something like this: Iraq is certain to descend into greater chaos and potential genocide, become a terrorist haven, spark a regional war, and elevate Iran to a position of dominance in the Middle East if we leave now. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Forget that the case has by no means been made that this worst-case scenario will come to pass. That is irrelevant. The question is now, as it was before the war, of whether or not we have the right; the right to escalate the war in Iraq against the wishes of its people and government, or the right to expand the war by attacking Iran.

He is right. We can't trust those bozos. Will Turkey intervene if Kurdistan secedes? Why? With what justification? Will the Shias fight effectively enough to put the Sunnis in danger of being overrun in their own area and therefore pull in Sunni neighboring states? Or will the Sunni neighbors just send aid and keep their distance while the Shias show themselves unwilling to take the fight into Sunni areas?

Dennis Dale argues the American people are the only force that can hold the Bush Administration accountable and responsible for its actions and that the failure of the American people to do so is a moral failure.

But when the veil fell from the Administration's connivance, we chose to avert our eyes. The other, ancillary justifications offered for deposing Saddam were all furtively moved up a spot. Like the disgraced subject of a Soviet show trial, the WMD/terrorist threat was erased from the offical history. It was never primarily about WMD became the line (and besides, everyone thought he had them, straight-faced). Such a blatant lie requires the complicity of its intended audience.
Why did we play along?
Holding our leaders accountable would have entailed acknowledging the thing for what it was: a national disgrace and a crime. Because there’s no entity more powerful than the United States, there is no one to hold its leadership accountable other than the sovereign American people.
When we took a pass we disgraced ourselves and damaged our republic in ways we won’t know for years to come.

Listen up American people. You are a disgrace. You continue to let Bush get away with his conduct of a foolish war. Does that argument fly? I guess my conservative argument against that is that the American public lacks the capacity to discharge the responsibilities of voters of the most powerful nation in the world. The problem, then, is universal suffrage.

Who should be held responsible? People who are smart enough to know better. That's not a populist mass democracy answer. Still, Dennis writes great prose and he's all worked up about Iraq. Go read him.

Stephen Hadley, President Bush's National Security Adviser, claims the NIE justifies the Bush plan for a troop surge.

I want to begin by saying that while the NIE, the National Intelligence Estimate, which is an effort to bring together all the elements of the intelligence community and come out with a consolidated set of judgments about the situation in Iraq -- this is a new document, the result of the conclusion of that review, but it's not new intelligence. That is to say, the substance of the document is intelligence that we have been provided by the intelligence community for several months, and it is this intelligence and the picture it paints that caused the President to conclude and then develop a new strategy or new approach to Iraq.

Secondly, in developing that new strategy or new approach, the intelligence community was a participant, and this intelligence, of course, inputted into that process to help us identify, then, and develop the policy that we did. Put another way, the intelligence assessment that is reflected in this NIE is not at war with this new approach or new strategy the President has developed, but I would say, explains why the President concluded that a new approach, a new strategy was required; explains a number of the elements of that strategy, and generally supports it. That is to say that the policy is designed to deal with the challenges that are reflected in this intelligence.

Bush's plan is the only thing the Bushies could think to do that assumes there's some way to make a semi-happy outcome in Iraq using US power. That is why the Bush and company are pursuing the troop surge.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 February 04 10:35 PM  Mideast Iraq Decay

Larkin said at February 5, 2007 10:30 AM:

The NIE also identified developments that could help reverse the negative trend lines in Iraq:

1) Broader Sunni acceptance of the current political structure and federalism

2) Significant concessions by Shia and Kurds to create space for Sunni acceptance of federalism.

Of course, neither of these approaches are considered important enough for Bush to include in his "new" strategy (which really isn't all that new after all). We continue to be duped by the Shiite-dominated government in assisting them to secure their hold on power at the expense of the Sunnis. The Sunnis, on the other hand, will never rat out the Al Qaeda in their midst if they continue to see themselves to be at war with the US, Iran, the Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government all at the same time.

The solution to Iraq has to involve reconciliation with the Sunnis. We could start by throwing out the Constitution that the Sunnis opposed overwhelmingly (97% in Anbar voted against it). We need to establish ourselves as a neutral party and an honest broker in the Sunni-Shiite civil war.

Randall Parker said at February 5, 2007 6:59 PM:


Those are such unlikely developments that I do not take them seriously. How can Bush include them in his strategy. What could he do to make them more likely?

The constitution: It is not ours to throw out. The Shias are the majority. They rule since they win elections.

John S Bolton said at February 5, 2007 9:33 PM:

At least the government is now condescending to give us some reasons why Iraqi national unity is supposed to be, in itself, a special item of US national interest.
Should it be suspected, though, that it is not the US interest, but that of the reputation of the administration and the neocons, which is under guard?
Evils will be spawned from partition, from the failure to maintain even one unifying national institution in Iraq; but aren't they the same evils, growing at the same rate and around the same time, as are to be predicted from an extended intervention as we have now, and/or with a surge of some months' duration?
Most of all, I hope these people do not believe their own propaganda.

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