National Intelligence Estimate Says Iraq Worse than Civil War, and Iran Not Key to Violence
February 2, 2007
The nation’s intelligence agencies are not regurgitating, for the moment anyway, Bush’s propaganda points.
Bush can keep denying that Iraq is in a civil war, but he has less and less support for that claim within the U.S. intelligence community. And as much as he hypes the threat from Iran, the intelligence community does not view it as key to the violence in Iraq.
Those are two of the central findings of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released on February 2.
On the question of “civil war,” the NIE argued that the situation in Iraq was actually worse than that term implies. “The Intelligence Community judges that the term ‘civil war’ does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qa’ida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence,” it said.
But it was willing, at a minimum, to accept the validity of the label.
“The term ‘civil war’ accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements,” it said.
As to Tehran, while the NIE said “Iranian lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants clearly intensifies the conflict,” such support is not decisive.
“Iraq’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 . . . because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq’s internal sectarian dynamics,” it said.
Saying the challenges in Iraq are “daunting,” the report was not hopeful. “Even if violence is diminished,” it said (and that’s a big “if”), “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.
If things go from bad to worse, the report listed three potential outcomes: “chaos leading to partition,” “emergence of a Shia strongman,” or “anarchic fragmentation of power.”