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Analysts: Iraq report lays out tough road for success
Posted By:Hajas On 2/3/2007

Analysts: Iraq report lays out tough road for success

POSTED: 9:07 p.m. EST, February 2, 2007

Story Highlights

Iraq report doesn't say whether troop "surge" into Iraq will work
Analysts say report lays out a challenging situation
Declassified version finds Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence the primary source of conflict
Sectarian violence seen as top threat to U.S. goals in the war-ridden nation
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The national intelligence estimate on Iraq released Friday does not address whether the president's plan to "surge" up to 21,500 troops into Iraq will work, but it lays out an extremely chaotic and complex situation that will make it difficult for those troops to succeed, intelligence and military analysts told CNN.

It will be up to the policy makers -- including President Bush and Congress -- to decide if the additional troops have a legitimate chance of success in the situation that the report says is "deteriorating," said John McLaughlin, a former deputy director of the CIA and CNN intelligence analyst. (Watch how the report reached its blistering conclusions Video)

"This is a pretty clear-eyed assessment by the intelligence community," McLaughlin said. "They didn't hold anything back." (Read the report (PDF))

The estimate was formulated at the time the president crafted his new Iraq policy, and Bush had access to the same information the intelligence community used to form the estimate's judgments.

McLaughlin said the intelligence community didn't make an assessment of whether the troop increase would work, in part, because it didn't have enough data to make a recommendation and, in part, because it did not want to weigh in on a debate that is essentially political. (Watch McLaughlin break down the NIE Video)

But the report did say that combating the increasing sectarian violence is a "daunting" task because Shiites are insecure about their hold on power after decades of Sunni hegemony in the social, political and economic realms, and Sunnis are deeply skeptical of a Shiite-controlled government they view as "illegitimate and incompetent."

"No matter how much we surge, no matter how many resources we pour into Iraq, unless you get unity of effort with the Iraqi government, that the Iraqi people themselves are the main purpose and not the tribes, the sects, the different pieces, we'll have a tough go at making any change," said retired Gen. David Grange, a CNN military analyst.

Yet, having viewed the intelligence that went into the estimate while drafting his new Iraq strategy, the president believes the U.S. still has a chance to stabilize the situation by adding up to five brigades.

Stephen Hadley, the U.S. national security adviser, said Friday that Bush concluded that in Iraq, the "status quo is not stable" and that change was needed.

"It's going to be hard and the president made it clear it's going to be hard. There's no assurance for success," he said.

The president's plan is a strategy that many lawmakers -- both Democrats and Republicans -- in the Congress remain highly skeptical of, and little in the report, they said, gave the skeptical lawmakers reason to change their minds.

"I do not see anything so far in the report that suggests the president's new plan is a winning strategy that protects America's national interest," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said in a statement. "Rather this NIE appears to be the latest in a long line of bleak assessments by foreign policy and military experts indicating the president's plan is flawed and failing."

"Nothing in this document tells us that sending 21,500 additional troops to Iraq will make the situation better," the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, said in a statement.

The estimate also makes it clear, however, that simply walking away from Iraq may even be worse. If the U.S. makes a "rapid withdrawal" from Iraq, a move many Democratic lawmakers have called for, the estimate said it could lead to the collapse of the Iraqi Security Forces, potentially plunging the country into a chaotic situation marked by "extreme ethno-sectarian violence with debilitating intra-group clashes."

And it is such a situation, the White House argues, the U.S. simply cannot accept.

"An American withdrawal or stepping back now would be a prescription for fast failure and a chaos that would envelop not only Iraq, but also the region," Hadley said.




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