When National Intelligence Director John Negroponte briefed the
Senate last week on Iraq, he cautioned lawmakers that the hope for
stability there rests on quelling unabated sectarian violence.
That view was reflected in a new National Intelligence Estimate
(NIE), parts of which were declassified Friday, that describes an
Iraq Army and police bedeviled by the sectarian allegiances of their
members. The report deemed it unlikely that these forces will move
effectively against militias in the next 18 months - particularly
against the Shiite groups with ties to Iraq's ruling parties.
Indeed, US military officials cautioned patience - despite the
deployment of an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.
"[That] will not turn the security situation overnight," Maj.
Gen. William Caldwell said in Baghdad. "Iraqi forces suffer
deficiencies in leadership and logistics. It will take more than two
months to solve these problems."
The urgent need to address the strife that flows in Baghdad's
streets as well as its political corridors was painfully evident in
a devastating weekend attack.
The deadliest single suicide bombing since the war began hit a
crowded Shiite market on Saturday, leaving at least 135 Iraqis dead.
Overall, the assessment from the NIE, a report from the US
intelligence community, was bleak, especially in its evaluation of
the ability of Iraqi security forces to get its arms around the
The violence is also leading to even greater polarization of
Iraqi society, both among the man on the street and the country's
political leaders, the report found.
Also, it underscored what experts and US government analysts have
been saying for some time - that the solution to Iraq's problems
rests on the creation of a national compact that will involve
compromise for the country's Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. It noted
that the trend is in the other direction.
"Even if the violence is diminished, the current winner-take-all
attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene
Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political
reconciliation" over the next 18 months, the term of the estimate,
the report says.
Despite the report's downbeat assessment, it argues in line with
the Bush administration that the situation would be worse if US
troops were to withdraw now.
The report makes the argument that if the US withdrew "rapidly,"
Iraq's security force would be "unlikely to survive as a
nonsectarian national institution," that "massive civilian
casualties and forced population displacement would be probable,"
and that outside countries "might" intervene directly in the