Thursday, September 16, 2004

 

Pessimism?

Dan Froomkin points to this article in the New York Times.

THE RECONSTRUCTION

U.S. Intelligence Shows Pessimism on Iraq's Future

By DOUGLAS JEHL

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 - A classified National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President Bush in late July spells out a dark assessment of prospects for Iraq, government officials said Wednesday.

The estimate outlines three possibilities for Iraq through the end of 2005, with the worst case being developments that could lead to civil war, the officials said. The most favorable outcome described is an Iraq whose stability would remain tenuous in political, economic and security terms.

"There's a significant amount of pessimism," said one government official who has read the document, which runs about 50 pages. The officials declined to discuss the key judgments - concise, carefully written statements of intelligence analysts' conclusions - included in the document.

The intelligence estimate, the first on Iraq since October 2002, was prepared by the National Intelligence Council and was approved by the National Foreign Intelligence Board under John E. McLaughlin, the acting director of central intelligence. Such estimates can be requested by the White House or Congress, but this one was initiated by the intelligence council under George J. Tenet, who stepped down as director of central intelligence on July 9, the government officials said.

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The new estimate by the National Intelligence Council was approved at a meeting in July by Mr. [John E.] McLaughlin and the heads of the other intelligence agencies, the officials said.

Its pessimistic conclusions were reached even before the recent worsening of the security situation in Iraq, which has included a sharp increase in attacks on American troops and in deaths of Iraqi civilians as well as resistance fighters. Like the new National Intelligence Estimate, the assessments completed in January 2003 were prepared by the National Intelligence Council, which is led by Robert Hutchings and reports to the director of central intelligence. The council is charged with reflecting the consensus of the intelligence agencies. The January 2003 assessments were not formal National Intelligence Estimates, however, which means they were probably not formally approved by the intelligence chiefs.

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