25th December 17:43
CIA: Iraq outlook bleak
CIA: Iraq outlook bleak
LEAKED REPORT WARNS U.S. MUST CHANGE TACK
By Jonathan S. Landay
WASHINGTON - A new, top-secret CIA report from Iraq paints a bleak
picture of the political and security situation there and cautions
that the U.S.-led drive to rebuild the country as a democracy could
collapse unless corrective actions are taken immediately.
The report warns that growing numbers of Iraqis are concluding that
the U.S.-led coalition can be defeated and are supporting the
L. Paul Bremer, head of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority
in Iraq, who arrived unexpectedly in Washington for strategy
sessions Tuesday, essentially endorsed the CIA's findings, said a
senior administration official.
The report's bleak tone and Bremer's private endor*****t differ
sharply with the upbeat public assessments that President Bush, his
chief aides and Bremer are giving as part of an aggressive publicity
campaign aimed at countering rising anxieties at home over
increasing U.S. casualties in Iraq.
In a Veterans Day speech Tuesday, Bush reiterated his resolve to
stay the course and crush the insurgency, and his belief that the
United States will prevail in helping to build ``democracy and peace
and justice'' in Iraq that will be a model for the Middle East.
Two senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of
anonymity because the do***ent is classified, described the report's
findings in broad terms, but didn't give excerpts or details of any
The report landed on the desks of senior U.S. officials Monday. The
speed of the leak suggested that senior policymakers want to make
sure the assessment reaches Bush.
Some senior policymakers have complained of being frustrated in
their efforts to provide Bush with more somber ****yses of the
situation in Iraq than the optimistic views of Vice President ****
Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other hard-liners.
The CIA assessment, said the senior administration officials, was
composed by the CIA station chief in Baghdad, a veteran operations
officer who oversees more than 275 officers in Iraq.
The report is a type known in intelligence parlance as an AARDWOLF,
a special field assessment that is usually requested by senior
policymakers in Washington at important junctures in overseas
The CIA ****ysis suggests that U.S. policy in Iraq has reached a
turning point, as the Bush administration moves to escalate the war
against the guerrillas and accelerate the transfer of political
power to Iraqis.
Both options are potentially risky.
In Baghdad, the U.S. military announced Tuesday that it would wage a
more aggressive offensive against the loose confederation of former
Saddam Hussein loyalists, foreign and Iraqi Islamist extremists and
``The most important message is that we are all going to get pretty
tough, and that's what is needed to defeat the enemy, and we are
definitely not shy of doing that when it is required,'' Lt. Gen.
Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. general in Iraq, told journalists.
Such a campaign, however, could cause more civilian casualties and
drive more Iraqis to the side of the insurgents.
At the same time, the CIA assessment warns that none of the postwar
Iraqi political institutions and leaders has shown an ability to
govern the country or even preside over drafting a constitution or
holding an election.
Bill Harlow, a CIA official, declined to confirm or deny the
existence of the report, saying the agency does not discuss such
The growing toll of dead and wounded has cost Bush a significant
amount of popularity as he begins campaigning in earnest for
re-election next November.
Bremer and top Bush officials, including Secretary of State Colin
Powell and Rumsfeld, met at the White House on Tuesday to examine
ways to speed up the restoration of Iraqi self-government. Bush did
U.S. officials have become deeply frustrated by infighting, nepotism
and inaction within the 25-member Iraqi Governing Council, the
U.S.-appointed body of Iraqi politicians that has been given limited
powers to govern Iraq. The council also is in charge of overseeing
the drafting of a constitution.
Bremer, Powell, Rumsfeld and other officials also discussed moves to
speed up the recruiting of U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces,
including a new army.
More than 118,000 Iraqis are serving in the new Iraqi army, police
and other forces, and U.S. officials aim to bring the total to more
than 220,000 sometime in 2004.
Accelerating restoration of Iraqi self-rule, speeding up the
recruiting of Iraqi security forces, and intensifying a U.S.
counterinsurgency campaign form the crux of a new U.S. strategy to
crush the resistance, consolidate the support of ordinary Iraqis for
U.S.-led democracy-building efforts, and reduce the U.S. military
The CIA report, one official said, warned that the more aggressive
U.S. counterinsurgency tactics could induce more Iraqis to join the
guerrilla campaign that has killed at least 153 U.S. soldiers -- 35
of them so far this month -- since Bush declared an end to major
combat operations in Iraq on May 1.
It also raised concerns about the governing council. The group,
which is dominated by former Iraqi exiles with little popular
support, has failed to convince ordinary Iraqis that the occupation
is temporary and will lead to a unified, sovereign Iraq, said the
Bremer has been formulating ways ``in which the Governing Council
can evolve into a decision-making body to move the constitutional
process along,'' said a third senior U.S. official, who also spoke
on condition of anonymity.
He denied recent news reports that the Bush administration is
considering replacing the council with some other group of Iraqis.
According to the second senior administration official, the report
warned that the inability of the U.S.-led coalition to crush the
resistance is convincing growing numbers of Iraqis that the
occupation can be defeated, bolstering support for the insurgents.
It also raised the concern that majority Shiite Muslims could begin
joining minority Sunnis in turning against the occupation.
Such a development would almost certainly doom the Bush
administration's chances of succeeding in Iraq.
The Shiites make up 60 percent of Iraq's 25 million people. They
suffered massive repression under Saddam, whose rule favored the
Sunnis. Most Shiite leaders have been willing to give the U.S.-led
occupation time to restore Iraqi sovereignty, as that would give
them power for the first time since the country was created by
Britain under a mandate of the League of Nations in 1920.
But friction between the U.S.-led occupation and the Shiites has
been intensifying, fueled by incidents such as the killing this week
by a U.S. soldier of the mayor of Sadr City, a massive Shiite slum
In another finding, the CIA report said there is no way to
completely seal Iraq's borders with Syria, Turkey, Iran, Jordan,
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to infiltration by foreign Islamist fighters
bent on killing Americans.
Mercury News Staff Writer Maureen Fan in Baghdad and Knight Ridder
correspondent Warren P. Strobel in Washington contributed to this