Iraq Prospects: Continued Violence, ‘Elusive’ Prospects, Lots of ‘Ifs’
The White House has released an update to the National Intelligence Estimate entitled, “Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: Some Security Progress but Political Reconciliation Elusive.” It’s available in PDF format here.
There have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation since our last National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in January 2007. The steep escalation of rates of violence has been checked for now, and overall attack levels across Iraq have fallen during seven of the last nine weeks. Coalition forces, working with Iraqi forces, tribal elements, and some Sunni insurgents, have reduced al-Qa’ida in Iraq’s (AQI) capabilities, restricted its freedom of movement, and denied it grassroots support in some areas. However, the level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks; and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively. There have been modest improvements in economic output, budget execution, and government finances but fundamental structural problems continue to prevent sustained progress in economic growth and living conditions.
We assess, to the extent that Coalition forces continue to conduct robust counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), that Iraq’s security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance. Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments.
The IC assesses that the emergence of “bottom-up” security initiatives, principally among Sunni Arabs and focused on combating AQI, represent the best prospect for improved security over the next six to 12 months, but we judge these initiatives will only translate into widespread political accommodation and enduring stability if the Iraqi Government accepts and supports them. A multi-stage process involving the Iraqi Government providing support and legitimacy for such initiatives could foster over the longer term political reconciliation between the participating Sunni Arabs and the national government. We also assess that under some conditions “bottom-up initiatives” could pose risks to the Iraqi Government.
This sounds about right and, indeed, pretty much comports with the bipartisan consensus on the war I noted yesterday. This assessment, from an unnamed “official” quoted by the NYT, is both amusing and probably dead-on: “It doesn’t take a policy position. But it leaves you with the sense that what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working, but we can’t let up, or it’ll get worse.”
It is considered very bad form for the IC to recommend policy for the policymaker customers of intelligence products. All the IC can do is to state the conditions and perhaps make predictions based on alternative courses of actions. You’ll never see an IC product recommend policy, as that is the very jealously guarded turf of the policymakers in the executive branch.
So, we’ll continue munching on these here shards of glass because, well, we’re not sure why but certainly anything else would be worse.
There has been altogether to much good news in the MSM from the front.
The IC is sowing the seeds of discontent before the September report. Or should I say trying to get the media in the right frame of mind to attack the September report.
PS: I do recall reading some time ago that, because of the time taken to gather and review the intelligence and move it up the chain, these reports are dated by the time they are issued. So just maybe this report is aged by two to three months.