Thursday :: Sep 16, 2004

Now It's The CIA That Says Civil War Is Possible In Iraq By End Of 2005


by Steve

This is a follow-up on Soccerdad's earlier excellent post and in response to War Dog's comments yesterday, who told us that his friends in the military, presumably in Iraq, were telling him that things are better in Iraq than we are being told. As I told you several days ago, Knight-Ridder got a Senior Administration Official (more on the likely person below) to say that the recent moves at improving coordination between the Agency, the military, and the diplomatic mission in Iraq with the interim government after they assumed control in late June were “probably too late.”

Apparently, it is not only a SAO who thinks so, but also the CIA. According to the New York Times this morning, the Agency prepared a secret National Intelligence Estimate for the White House in late July (during the Democratic convention) that concluded the country was in danger of slipping into civil war by the end of 2005.

A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday.

Its pessimistic conclusions were reached even before the recent worsening of the security situation in Iraq, which has included a sharp increase in attacks on American troops and in deaths of Iraqi civilians as well as resistance fighters.

The estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war, the officials said. The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose stability would remain tenuous in political, economic and security terms.

"There's a significant amount of pessimism," said one government official who has read the document, which runs about 50 pages. The officials declined to discuss the key judgments - concise, carefully written statements of intelligence analysts' conclusions - included in the document.

As described by the officials, the pessimistic tone of the new estimate stands in contrast to recent statements by Bush administration officials, including comments on Wednesday by Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, who asserted that progress was being made.

President Bush, who was briefed on the new intelligence estimate, has not significantly changed the tenor of his public remarks on the war's course over the summer, consistently emphasizing progress while acknowledging the difficulties.

Already, John Kerry sounds more realistic and knowledgeable about the problems we face in Iraq than the Bush Administration:

"I think it is very difficult to see today how you're going to distribute ballots in places like Falluja, and Ramadi and Najaf and other parts of the country, without having established the security,'' Mr. Kerry said in a call-in phone call to Don Imus, the radio talk show host. "I know that the people who are supposed to run that election believe that they need a longer period of time and greater security before they can even begin to do it, and they just can't do it at this point in time. So I'm not sure the president is being honest with the American people about that situation either at this point.''

And there are signs of trouble for the Administration with its Iraq policy from both sides of the aisle in the Senate, which is having a hard time going along with the diversion of reconstruction money to security needs.

The situation in Iraq prompted harsh comments from Republicans and Democrats at a hearing into the shift of spending from reconstruction to security. Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, called it "exasperating for anybody look at this from any vantage point," and Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, said of the overall lack of spending: "It's beyond pitiful, it's beyond embarrassing. It is now in the zone of dangerous."

Separate from the new estimate, Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued other warnings on Wednesday about the American campaign in Iraq, saying the administration's request to divert more than $3 billion to security from the $18.4 billion aid package of last November was a sign of trouble.

"Although we recognize these funds must not be spent unwisely," the committee chairman, Mr. Lugar said, "the slow pace of reconstruction spending means that we are failing to fully take advantage of one of our most potent tools to influence the direction of Iraq."

Less than $1 billion has been spent so far.

The committee's ranking Democrat, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, one of the harshest critics of the Iraq policies, was far more outspoken. "The president has frequently described Iraq as, quote, 'the central front of the war on terror,' " Mr. Biden went on. "Well by that definition, success in Iraq is a key standard by which to measure the war on terror. And by that measure, I think the war on terror is in trouble."

Ka-ching! There's a lethal Kerry attack line.

Bush and his supporters want to sweep these problems in Iraq under the rug until after the election. They seem to say that all will be fine when elections are held in January, but that is wishful thinking, since there is no guarantee that the whole country will take part in those elections which will undermine the legitimacy of any elections. And as Kerry says, because of the deteriorating security situation in the country, we have bungled our way out of January elections anyway.

Furthermore, what exactly is the Bush plan for Iraq to deal with this move towards civil war? A harsher military posture towards rebel-held areas? Hope and prayer to hang on until January elections in the vain hope that tensions will subside after elections that don’t include large parts of the country that aren’t under the control of Prime Minister Allawi? Hope and prayer that Ayatollah Sistani doesn’t withdraw support for Allawi anytime between now and January? Hope and prayer that the Turks don’t withdraw support for our effort anytime between now and January?

And what is proposed by the Bush Administration to deal with the imminent security threat in the country? Will thousands more troops be needed in the country, primarily US troops? Will the White House wait until after the election to drop that bombshell on the voters? How likely is it that we’ll get any significant help from other countries while we’re bombing and killing Iraqi civilians and the UN now says the war was “illegal” in the first place?

Why is George W. Bush lying to us about what he knows is being predicted for Iraq by his own administration? What are we to make of the fact that it seems that two “trial balloons”, first the Knight Ridder scoop from a SAO, and now the leak of what is in a secret NIE both indicate that the administration itself thinks things are headed downhill, and have both made their way into the public debate while Bush and Cheney give us the happy talk about Iraq? Is there someone inside the administration that wants the truth on the table before the election? And who would that person or persons be?

The Washingtonian ran a piece recently that gives you a clue as to who spilled the story to Knight Ridder and who may have leaked this NIE to the Times. According to their breakdown of possible SAO’s, it appears that the Knight Ridder “probably too late” quote came from either Condi Rice, her deputy Stephen Hadley, or even Dan Bartlett at the White House. All other possible SAO’s from the Washingtonian’s piece are true believers and would never tell a member of the media that their big gambit in Iraq is about to fail.

But that doesn’t mean Bush should get off the hook. We now know that someone inside his own administration as well as the Agency both say that Iraq is in danger of failing or heading to civil war. So Kerry should keep hammering Bush to come clean to the American people what his plan and exit strategy are, aside from hope and prayer that things hold together until January. Bush owes it to the American people to tell them if more troops will be needed in the next six months, and he owes it to voters to tell them this before November 2, and not the day after.

Steve :: 9:26 AM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!