Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 02, 2007

Iraq NIE

The public key findings (pdf) of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq are now out.

A very short version:

  • Iraq is a total brutal mess.
  • The situation there will get worse.
  • Keeping or removing the U.S. troops does not make any difference to Iraq.
  • If certain things happen, Iraq will go down the drain even faster and end up partitioned, in a genocidal war or total anarchy.

The points in the NIE are arranged in a bit confusing or, one might say, obfuscating way. I have rearranged them for clarity here without (I hope) manipulating their meaning
(direct quotes from the NIE are in italic.)

It starts off with three points:

  • Iraq is a serious mess. The state is weak and everybody is willing to kill everybody.
  • 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.
  • If the Iraqi Security Forces were better, there could be a chance for a political process. But even then that process would be very difficult.

In detail the NIA then assesses:

  • The Shia do not want to give up their new won power and do not trust the U.S.
  • The Sunnis do not accept their loss of power.
  • The Kurds want Kirkuk which means more trouble between them and the Arabs.
  • Forget the Iraq Security Forces - they are sectarian, undertrained and unequipped.
  • Al-Qa’ida in Iraq and Jaysh al-Mahdi (Sadrists) are accelerators in the deterioration.
  • The refugees are a real problem.
  • It is not a "Civil war" but:

[T]he 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.

  • Iran supports some Shia groups
  • Syria houses Baathists and lets insurgents enter Iraq
  • Sunni Arab states are not helping a bit but consider support for Sunnis in Iraq
  • Turkey wants to eliminate the PKK in northern Iraq
  • but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability

There is nothing mentioning or arguing for a "surge". But, says the NIE, the coalition (i.e. the U.S troops) is stabilizing the situation. Removing those troops would make things worse, they say, because:

  • massive casualties and displacement might occur
  • Al-Qa’ida in Iraq would reside in Anbar
  • there would be more violence and more political strife
  • Kirkuk would be fought over and
  • neighbors might intervene

The situation could be solved, says the NIE, if:

  • the Shia would give up some power,
  • the Sunnis would accept their power loss,
  • the Kurds stopped insisting on Kirkuk and
  • the Iraqi Security Forces were getting better

A number of things could happen that would the mess worse very quickly:

  • sustained mass sectarian killings
  • the killing of a religious figure
  • the Sunnis leaving the government   

If such happens there are three possible outcomes:

  • de facto partition
  • a Shia strongman takes over
  • total anarchy

In total, this sounds realistic to me. Iraq will get worse and there is not much anyone can do.

But certainly I would like to know more about the assessment of the role of U.S. troops today and how a "surge" or a removal of the troops would make a difference. General Casey and Abizaid were against a surge as were the Chief of Staffs.

What do they know?

I believe the real, secret NIE supports their standpoint by assessing that the surge will make things worse.

And who inserted that Shia strongman into the NIE?

Let the leaks start ...

Posted by b on February 2, 2007 at 18:44 UTC | Permalink


Indeed, most of this seems pretty obvious. It's been said here, said by Billmon, said by Steve Gilliard, most of it said by Juan Cole, and most of these assessments were made as early as 2003. In fact, there are some who basically summarised this NIE even before the invasion.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Feb 2 2007 19:14 utc | 1

Arab League Ambassador in Baghdad has resigned in protest


Limani was one on the few diplomats, and the only Arab ambassador in Baghdad (most Arab embassies are currently operating from Amman, Jordan). Furthermore, Limani established the Arab League’s mission in the heart of Baghdad and outside of the Green Zone, as Limani says, the mission was in the ‘red zone’ (he defined the ‘red zone’ as the entirety of Iraqi except for the Green Zone). Limani also said that the Arab League mission was protected by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, which he found ironic, “An Arab mission protected by the Kurds.”

The article contains excerpts from an interview and from his letter of resignation, indicating his belief that nothing is being done by any sector inside or outside of Iraq in the interest of the Iraqi people.

Posted by: ww | Feb 2 2007 21:10 utc | 2

while at iraqslogger, this story was in the side bar.

And it's very interesting -- in a recent interview, the Iraqi Prime Minister* [sic], Abd al Madhi, had the following statement, which I thought was an interesting, different perspective on this issue. He said first, "I don't think we are in a civil war. We are in a war on civilians. That's what Abu Musab al Zarqawi was trying to do. That's what the insurgents are trying to do. Otherwise, what is the meaning of a car bomb in a university or market? You're against a society, against civilians. Or when Sunni militias attack, some Shia militias attack in retaliation. They are not attacking as one army against another, but they are attacking civilians from the other community. That's why I say," and this is Abd al Madhi's comment, "we are in a war against civilians, not a civil war."

freudian slip?

Posted by: dan of steele | Feb 2 2007 21:30 utc | 3

And who inserted that Shia strongman into the NIE?

Well, it would be interesting, yes indeed -- but ever more so interesting would be just who one might imagine the Shia strongman to be.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Feb 2 2007 21:33 utc | 4

Shia Strongman? - An Iraqi "southern man", and "strong" as supported by Iran? Just asking.

If such happens there are three possible outcomes:
de facto partition
a Shia strongman takes over
total anarchy

What do you mean by "if"? And, of course, these three possible outcomes are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Rick | Feb 2 2007 22:01 utc | 5

Chuck Cliff

If Hadley is prescient, he may very well have named him in the story I linked to. Al Mahdi is the leader of SCIRI and may very well be Nouri al-Maliki's replacement

Posted by: dan of steele | Feb 2 2007 22:04 utc | 6

There are no new wars, only new chapters in the same American war upon lesser nations.

It's what we do to the Middle East. Or get Israel to do. We put the brakes or the big kaboom on any genuine development of independent, sovereign nations in that oily corner of the world. That's our oil under their sand, and don't you forget it.

We have played state against state in the Middle East since WWII, to keep them weak and dependent on our arms and technology. Now that oil is growing peakish, we are physically knocking them over, one by one, all according to the PNAC agenda first spelled out publicly in 1995.

The aim is to maintain American hegemony. Ruined nations and devastated populations are mere collateral damage. The outcome, no matter what we have to do to get there, is a world where America and America's friends get to take what they want from wherever they want, and stuff the consequences.

This is the same philosophy that made Blackbeard effective and famous on the high seas.

Posted by: Antifa | Feb 3 2007 6:49 utc | 7

This is two weeks old, but I hadn't seen it yet: U.S. Launches Armed Force to Block Iranian Influence in Iraq

The U.S. military has launched a special operations task force to break up Iranian influence in Iraq, according to U.S. News sources. The special operations mission, known as Task Force 16, was created late last year to target Iranians trafficking arms and training Shiite militia forces. The operation is modeled on Task Force 15, a clandestine cadre of Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force soldiers, and CIA operatives with a mission to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives and Baathist insurgents in Iraq.

Task Force 15 killed al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, last June.

The new classified directive is part of an escalation of military countermeasures against Iran, authorized by President Bush, to strike back at what military officials describe as a widespread web of Iranian influence in Iraq that includes providing weapons, training, and money to Shiite militias.

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2007 7:42 utc | 8

#6, dan of steele

Actually, I was, in fact, also thinking of Hakim -- but Al Mahdi?

Gee, hadn't thought of that!

But, now that you mention it, the geezer has been pruning and oiling his beard real nice for quite some time...

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Feb 3 2007 7:57 utc | 9

Evidence is still inconclusive on Iran involvement in Iraq

Bush administration officials acknowledged Friday that they have yet to compile evidence strong enough to back up publicly their claims that Iran is fomenting violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Administration officials have long complained that Iran was supplying Shiite militants with lethal explosives and other materiel used to kill U.S. servicemen. But despite several pledges to make the evidence public, the administration has twice postponed the release -- most recently, a briefing by military officials scheduled for Tuesday in Baghdad.

"The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated, and we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts," national security advisor Stephen J. Hadley said Friday.

Justifications for attacking Iran on shaky ground

The U.S. government's own data, however, show that Sunni insurgents, not the Shiite militias supported by Iran, have been responsible for most American combat deaths.

According to data provided by Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, an Internet site that closely tracks military and civilian deaths in Iraq, more than two-fifths of the U.S. combat deaths in 2006 occurred in the Sunni heartland of Anbar province, where Iran has virtually no influence.

The proportion of U.S. casualties that occurred in Anbar - 44 percent - was higher than it was in 2005, when it was about 36 percent.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration is under growing pressure from Israel and Arab nations to counter Iran's growing assertiveness.

"The administration is between a rock and a hard place here," said a senior U.S. intelligence official, speaking anonymously because the intelligence on Iran is highly classified. "On one hand, they have to convince people here and abroad that this time they're telling the truth and they've got the goods, which won't be easy. And a lot of our friends in the region, like the Saudis and the Israelis and the Lebanese, are nervous and want us to get tough with Iran."

Challenged by Iran to make its evidence public, the administration has postponed briefings on what one U.S. official called "the Iran dossier."
"Are the Iranians mucking around in Iraq? You bet," he said. "Do they want to make sure they've got a government in Baghdad that's simpatico instead of another war? Yep. But are they fighting a secret war against the Americans in Iraq? We have no evidence of that."

The fact that some Iranian weaponry is flowing to the Mahdi Army, and that Mahdi Army fighters have attacked Americans, doesn't prove that the Iranians are targeting Americans, said a second U.S. intelligence official, who also agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.
Further compounding the problem, the three U.S. intelligence officials said, is that the Bush administration supports not only Dawa's Maliki, but also two major SCIRI leaders, Abdul Aziz al Hakim and Abdul Adel Mahdi, who are also in the government.

"So what do we do?" said one of the officials. "Accuse the Iranians of supporting the same guys we support? That's awkward."

So not enough data to prove anything with regards to Iran. What they need now is a Guld of Tonkin incident or the like ...

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2007 8:06 utc | 10

The U.S. keeps mixing up the formula for dynamite, in ever greater quanities -- expecting one flower to grow, and only get explosions. While the Iranians, according to Pat Lang, have tens if not hunderds of thousands of operatives active in Iraq. Who for lack of anything the U.S. might understand (or find), have quietly been growing a nice flower garden right under their nose.

Curious, this notion that if the U.S. leaves, a Shiite strongman might emerge. What? Is that ment as a threat, something the U.S. might find unacceptable -- or would it be that the region would find it unacceptable? Nonetheless, one way or another the U.S. will be left holding the bag for the rise of the Shiite cresent to the eternal discontent of their Sunni client states. Unless they either abandon the Iraqi Shiites, attack Iran, or muddle on indefinetly.

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 3 2007 9:25 utc | 11

b -#10,

With U.S. aircraft ready to bomb targets (Iranian?) along the border, Bush may not need a single incident to justify responding ‘whole hog’, but perhaps a more incremental escalation will happen. This excerpt quoting an Iranian commander (from the Israeli Debkafile Jan. 31, 2007) talks of pin-pointed raids initially:

”The first commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohsein Rezai, estimated in recent conversations with Western sources that the US would not start out with a large-scale attack but only pinpointed military raids against RG bases in Iran. The opposition Mujaheddin al Khalq are reportedly being trained to take part in these operations, which would probably escalate as Iran began retaliating to the American strikes.”

I bring this up after hearing Pat Buchanan the other evening on MSNBC saying the initial plan of attack is for a massive 6 day bombing campaign on Iran. Sort of like ‘shock and awe’ but this time even more devastating. Hard to say what is to go down, or when.

Posted by: Rick | Feb 3 2007 10:06 utc | 12

I suspect that the reference to a Shia strongman is code for Iyad Allawi.

Posted by: dan | Feb 3 2007 19:05 utc | 13

Baghdad market bomb 'kills 135'

what can i say?

Posted by: annie | Feb 3 2007 19:39 utc | 14

chuck #9 dan of steele ,Actually, I was, in fact, also thinking of Hakim -- but Al Mahdi? Gee, hadn't thought of that!

al mahdi would be a wet dream for bushco

Antonia Juhasz / Bush's Ace in the Hole in Iraq?

On Saturday, Iraq's Prime Minister appointed nearly all of the cabinet that will serve in the first full-term government of post-invasion Iraq. While the Ministers of Defense, Interior, and National Security have yet to be named, at least one key post has been locked-in for over a month -- that of Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi. The re-appointment of Mahdi may yet provide the Bush Administration with its most important victory in the Iraq war since Saddam Hussein was pulled out of a rabbit hole in Tikrit. However, Mahdi's Vice Presidency may also ultimately generate at least as much hostility towards the United States as the invasion itself.

Over the course of the war, Mahdi emerged as one of the most aggressive proponents of the Bush administration's economic agenda for Iraq, including the implementation of controversial corporate globalization rules and greater U.S. corporate access to Iraq's oil.

Although considered a religious moderate, Mahdi is a senior member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution (SCIRI), Iraq's leading Shiite political party. An economist trained in France, Mahdi returned to Iraq on April 12, 2003 after 34 years of exile. He has since held key positions in each successive Iraqi government. Following the invasion, he represented SCIRI's Abdel Aziz al-Hakim on the Iraq Governing Council assembled by L. Paul Bremer, the Administrator of the U.S. occupation government of Iraq. With the end of the formal occupation on June 28, 2004, Mahdi was named Finance Minister of the Bremer-appointed Iraqi Interim Government. After failing to win the position of Prime Minister by just one vote after the January 30, 2005 popular elections, Mahdi was appointed as a Vice President of the Transitional Government and now, Vice President of the Permanent Government.

As Finance Minister, Mahdi made at least two trips to Washington, DC in 2003 and 2004 during which he met with President Bush and Vice President Cheney. He emerged as the administration's second choice for Prime Minister of the transitional government after Iyad Allawi.

Posted by: annie | Feb 3 2007 20:08 utc | 15

The problem with al-Mahdi is that who would support him in the Iraqi government? Certainly not the Sadr list, which is the only thing keeping the Maliki ship afloat. The UIA will break apart without Sadr. Of course al-Mahdi would be the U.S. ideal PM, but cannot be elected. So, in order to bring him, or someone like him (Allawi) to power there would have to be a re-structure (coup) of the government.

I took the "Shiite strongman" threat to be manifest if the U.S. were to leave -- a Shiite strongman, allied with Iran, would take control of the south, and threaten direct (Iranian hegemonic) expansion first in Iraq, then into the region. Huge nightmare for the Sunni client states. Again, I see no way out of the U.S. delimma -- of rolling back Iranian influence and keeping the lid on in Iraq. They can't have it both ways, unless I'm missing something.

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 3 2007 20:34 utc | 16

you aren't missing anything. from b's #10 post

Further compounding the problem, the three U.S. intelligence officials said, is that the Bush administration supports not only Dawa's Maliki, but also two major SCIRI leaders, Abdul Aziz al Hakim and Abdul Adel Mahdi, who are also in the government.

"So what do we do?" said one of the officials. "Accuse the Iranians of supporting the same guys we support? That's awkward."

what were they thinking? that they could offer enough candy that arab allegiances would join w/america vs another islamic country? absurd.

Posted by: annie | Feb 3 2007 20:49 utc | 17

IMV - Pat has this exactly right: The Message in the Body Count

We Sunni Arabs will fight before, during and after your withdrawal to end up with at least a parity of power with the Kurds and Shia Arabs. Our brothers "outside" will help us. They will tell you Americans whatever you are gullible enough to believe about their relationship to us and to the the Israelis, but they will help us. When you are gone we will fight the Shia, the Iranians, maybe the jihadis if they try to rule us, but we will fight.

The message from the Shia Arabs is that we will persist in our efforts to live in dignity and sovereignty in Iraq. We, too, have friends.

The message from the jihadis is that "God Wills It," and we will persist in His path until all submit. Death is nothing.

The message from all: Who are you Americans to tell us that our struggles are "incomprehensible?" Who are you?

Posted by: b | Feb 3 2007 21:19 utc | 18

In some ways, I suppose that the AEI inspired policy on Iraq has come to see the Shiite brand of Islam as the better horse to bet on. They think, with some credibility, that the intrepretive character of Shiism, unlike Sunnism, might be more conducive to the democratic ideal. They look toward Iran and see the impulse toward democracy occur spontaniously, where no such impulse occurs in Saudia Arabia -- and so they may think, gee the Shiites (to Sunni's) are more like the Protestants than the Catholics (in Christanity) spinning out a plethra of sub-sects with varing intrepretations of the Quran (bible), while the Sunnis (Cathlics) are bound to a singular unflexable intrepretation. There may have been something to this. But, policy wise the U.S. has totally screwd up in exploiting watever potential there might have been for a natural demand for democracy to florish. First, they have through their belligerant pressure on Iran, set the empitus for democracy back a good 20 years by driving the people back into the arms of the Mullah's as a matter of national security. Secondly, in Iraq they have both empowered the Shiites and fragmented them simultaniously in the effort to instantly evolve them into secular democrats, which they are'nt even close. This has also created the context for civil strife that has sent those of a more liberal, secular, and democratic orientation fleeing the country. Two million, most likely the moderately inclined, have already fled. The U.S. policy has then in fact drivin the forces of moderation and democracy from the area and are now left
with only those too impoveraged or radicalized. U.S. policy as proclaimed "democractization in the Middle East" has had exactly the reverse effect.

Posted by: | Feb 3 2007 22:43 utc | 19

a.m. above

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 4 2007 0:25 utc | 20

31 Days in Iraq

Posted by: b | Feb 4 2007 8:59 utc | 21>Oh well, the official story.

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 4 2007 9:10 utc | 22

who's paying ?

Bush's proposal is expected to cut more than $65 billion over five years from Medicare and about $7 billion from Medicaid, relative to the spending levels that the programs would reach under current law.

The budget also proposes reductions in various entitlement programs. These proposals include some cuts that would not directly affect people in need, such as the changes that the Administration is proposing in Medicare, which would save $36 billion over five years and $105 billion over ten years. A number of the Medicare proposals would represent sound policy if they were used for deficit reduction rather than to help finance tax cuts.

But the entitlement changes in the budget also include proposals that would adversely affect vulnerable families and individuals. For example, the budget proposes to cut the Social Services Block Grant, which provides funding to states to provide social services for low-income and vulnerable populations, by $500 million — or 30 percent — in 2007.

* The budget also contains new cuts in Medicaid, which provides health insurance to low-income children, parents, seniors, and people with disabilities. The budget proposes legislative changes in Medicaid that would reduce federal Medicaid funding by a net of $1.5 billion over five years and $5.1 billion over ten years, as well as regulatory changes that would reduce federal funding by an additional $12.2 billion over five years. (No ten-year figure is provided for the regulatory changes.) A substantial majority of these Medicaid changes would be achieved by shifting costs to states. That likely would induce many states to reduce eligibility or scale back health benefits for low-income Medicaid beneficiaries, possibly by using the authority that the just-passed budget reconciliation bill gives states to increase co-payments, impose premiums, and narrow the health services that Medicaid covers.

Posted by: annie | Feb 4 2007 16:57 utc | 23

This is an excellent, excellent piece that really puts the story together well.

From Afghanistan to Iraq: Putting the Dots Together With Oil


The long-held suspicions about George Bush's wars are well-placed. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not prompted by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. They were not waged to spread democracy in the Middle East or enhance security at home. They were conceived and planned in secret long before September 11, 2001 and they were undertaken to control petroleum resources.

The "global war on terror" began as a fraud and a smokescreen and remains so today, a product of the Bush Administration's deliberate and successful distortion of public perception. The fragmented accounts in the mainstream media reflect this warping of reality, but another more accurate version of recent history is available in contemporary books and the vast information pool of the Internet. When told start to finish, the story becomes clear, the dots easier to connect.

Highly recommended.

Posted by: Bea | Feb 6 2007 2:23 utc | 24

PS. I meant to say, b - I thought your summary of the NIE was brilliant.

Thank you.

Posted by: Bea | Feb 6 2007 2:24 utc | 25

Another incisive analysis:

The">">The Surge as Ethnic Cleansing; The Surge as the Bridge to War with Iran

Don't miss the link to Bernard Lewis's Middle East embedded at the end. I wonder if this is what Condi envisions when she says we are witnessing "the birth pangs of a new Middle East." If so, forcibly redrawing borders along ethnic lines all across the region can only be done by wholescale slaughter and displacement on a scale that is far greater than what we see now in Iraq, which is already the greatest refugee upheaval since Palestine.

Posted by: Bea | Feb 6 2007 15:23 utc | 26

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