Intelligence Report Predicts Worsening Cycle of Violence

By MARK MAZZETTI

New York Times

February 2, 2007

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 — A much-anticipated assessment of Iraq by America’s intelligence agencies describes a worsening cycle of chaos in the country, and forecasts that the sectarian strife will continue to fracture the country without bold actions by Iraqi politicians.

The assessment, titled "Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead", begins with this blunt conclusion:

"Iraqi society’s growing polarization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides ready recourse to violence are collectively driving an increase in communal and insurgent violence and political extremism.

"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."

The assessment, which contains the consensus judgments of the 16 agencies that make up the intelligence community, is a stark assessment of the eroding security in the country and the prospects for Iraq’s government to reign in the violence between Sunni and Shiia sects.

The report also argues against a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, concluding that a military pullout will only accelerate the violence.

Some of the report’s judgments were first reported today in The Washington Post.

Senior intelligence officials for months had provided glimpses of the new estimate in public testimony before Congress, including an assessment that sectarian violence is the most significant threat to Iraqi security, surpassing even Al Qaeda’s role in Iraqi attacks.

“Conflict in Iraq is a self-sustaining and growing cycle in which violent acts increasingly generate retaliation,” Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, who leads the Defense Intelligence Agency, recently told members of Congress.

“Insecurity rationalizes and justifies militias, in particular Shiia militias and increases fears in the Sunni Arab community,” he said.

As the sectarian violence gathered steam over last summer, top Senators requested that Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte begin work on the new assessment, the first N.I.E. on Iraq since 2004.

National intelligence estimates draw analysis from America’s disparate intelligence agencies, and are written by officials at the National Intelligence Council.

The new report also draws conclusions about that ability of the Iraqi government to quell the violence and mend sectarian rifts in the country.

Last week, National Intelligence Council chairman, Thomas Fingar, told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that the new N.I.E. concludes it will be “very difficult” for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki to deal with the violence and accomplish a national reconciliation, but “not impossible.”

"We judge that Maliki does not wish to fail in his role," Mr. Fingar said. "He does not wish to preside over the disintegration of Iraq."