Wednesday, September 27, 2006

NIE: "The overall estimate is bleak"

The National Intelligence Estimate is available at the DNI website.

The most optimistic part of this bleak NIE states about five years to develop political structures to drive a wedge between those who would use terror and those who would use politics. We can see such a wedge in previous terrorist movements (Provisional IRA vs. Real/Continuity IRA). Five years may be optimistic. That time frame necessitates great success in Iraq. Are we on a course for such success? Keep in mind, the bloodiest months in Iraq happened after this NIE was written.

There is one passage from the NIE, apparently, that was removed before it was declassified. Spook86 had Scoop2006: "Threats to the U.S. are intrinsically linked to U.S. success or failure in Iraq."

The more I read that line, the more troubling it seems.

The Washington Post:
The overall estimate is bleak, with minor notes of optimism. It depicts a movement that is likely to grow more quickly than the West's ability to counter it over the next five years, as the Iraq war continues to breed "deep resentment" throughout the Muslim world, shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and cultivating new supporters for their ideology.

In describing Iraq as "the 'cause celebre' for jihadists," the document judges that real and perceived insurgent successes there will "inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere," while losses would have the opposite effect. It predicts that the elimination of al-Qaeda leaders, particularly Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed after the estimate was completed in April, would probably leave that organization splintered into disparate groups that "for at least a time, pose a less serious threat to U.S. interests" than the current al-Qaeda structure.

On the relative bright side, the assessment notes the unpopularity with "the vast majority of Muslims" of the jihadists' brutal tactics and ultraconservative ideology. Democratic reforms and peaceful political alternatives in Muslim countries will also counter terrorist aims, it says.
The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — Three years ago, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld wrote a memo to his colleagues in the Pentagon posing a critical question in the “long war’’ against terrorism: Is Washington’s strategy successfully killing or capturing terrorists faster than new enemies are being created?

Until Tuesday, the government had not publicly issued an authoritative answer. But the newly declassified National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism does exactly that, and it concludes that the administration has failed the Rumsfeld test.

Portions of the report appear to bolster President Bush’s argument that the only way to defeat the terrorists is to keep unrelenting military pressure on them. But nowhere in the assessment is any evidence to support Mr. Bush’s confident-sounding assertion this month in Atlanta that “America is winning the war on terror.’’
George W. Bush, as reported in the Washington Post:
"My judgment is, if we weren't in Iraq, they'd find some other excuse, because they have ambitions," Bush said. "They kill in order to achieve their objectives."

Bush said he reluctantly ordered the release of the National Intelligence Estimate so people can form their own conclusions about it. "You can read it for yourself," he said. "We'll stop all the speculation, all the politics about somebody saying something about Iraq, somebody trying to confuse the American people about the nature of this enemy."
This is the president at his overly simplistic "best". It is true that jihadists will warp current events and historical events to explain their cause and draw recruits. However, this does not mean that any set of events would lead to current conditions -- to the current number of recruits, the current level of violence. This is what is so crucial in this NIE. It states that the war in Iraq, among other events (this NIE was issued before the conflict in Lebanon), has lead to a "growing percentage of Muslims identif[ying] themselves as jihadist." (Financial Times) The report strongly implies that success in Iraq will discourage these ranks. However, it also implies that failure will encourage violence. Peter Bergen and Alec Raynolds wrote in November's Foreign Affairs that the impact of jihadi success in Iraq could be greater than the success they experienced in Afghanistan. This success, in part, lead to 9/11.

This begs the question: are we on the path to success in Iraq?

The president may have begun a slippery slope of election-fueled reports, BBC News:
US Democrats have urged the Bush administration to release in full a report which finds that US involvement in Iraq has fuelled global terrorism.

Senators said parts of the intelligence report declassified on Tuesday did not give Americans enough information.
CNN:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As political debate churned over an intelligence report released Tuesday, a top Democrat called for the release of a second, new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that she says "paints a grim picture."

The White House denied a charge by Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, that another intelligence report is being kept in draft form so that its contents won't be public until the midterm elections in November are over.

"I hear it paints a grim picture. And because it does, I am told it is being held until after the November elections. If this estimate is finished, it should not be stamped 'draft' and hidden from the American people until after the elections," Harman said in a statement.

Frances Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser, said the report in question was only commissioned in August and is still months away from being complete. The planned release date is now January, she said.
Brookings will have a poll to report today (3:00 pm EST): Iraqi Public Opinion Amidst Increasing Violence. Their press release:
On September 27, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution will join the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) to release new findings from a second in-depth poll of Iraqi public opinion undertaken by WorldPublicOpinion.org. The first public opinion poll was taken a month after Iraq's historic parliamentary election, and the new poll results will help illuminate Iraqi views about the impact of American troops in their country, legitimate prospects for success, and a realistic timetable for withdrawal.
More reactions...

Captain's Quarters:
This is why we have to endure the Iraqi "jihad" until we succeed. The insurgency will collapse when Iraqis grow strong enough to defend themselves and rebuild their infrastructure in peace.
William Arkin:
The growth of dissatisfaction and terror, the summary of the National Estimate argues, is not only about Iraq: Corruption, repression, and inner battles within Islam and Muslim states are the sources of the spread and growth of today's jihadist movement.

The document, however, only mildly suggests that "greater pluralism and more responsive political systems" in the Muslim world, as well as a sustained U.S. counter-terrorism effort, could "erode" the Jihadists. The four-page summary is otherwise silent on the true sources of what it calls "pervasive" anti-American sentiment, even as it does point to the rise of "anti-US and anti-globalization sentiment…fueling other radical ideologies," such as in Venezuela, though it is unnamed.

We as Americans need to get beyond not just Iraq but also beyond the September 11 retaliation era so that we can look at our adversaries and our potential enemies with a clearer eye, with some openness, and some compassion.

A lot more is needed today than getting out of Iraq.
I checked the Chatham House (a UK think tank) today, and I noticed that they have a report on terrorism available. I have yet to read it, but here are the openning remarks
:• Five years on, the challenge to al-Qaeda is coming from within as traditional Islam attacks the use of terror as un-Islamic and popular support wanes as terrorist attacks target Muslims.

• Nonetheless, there has been an increased radicalization of the Muslim street but this seems to be finding expression in Islamist groups who are keen to use democratic channels.

• Al-Qaeda’s main success has been to highlight the link between the West’s policies in the Middle East and terrorism.

• Despite its religious rhetoric, al-Qaeda’s strength lies in its political message which resonates with many but whose tactics have attracted only the fringe.

• The West faces a terrorist challenge that comes from within its borders and which impinges on community relations and civil liberties.
The NIE, which may yet be released in its entirety, stated that it was based partly on "all-source reporting". That means we Bloggers have some of the same information as the intelligence community.

2 Comments:

Blogger Chuck said...

In my comment to your post above, I spoke of the Shia and Sunnis being at each others throats.

The Chatham report seems to be generally in line with my opinion but I think the Muslims are headed for intercene warfare on a grand scale.

The Chatham report also states that the danger of home grown Muslim terrorism is a big factor. I agree, we are giving in to every Muslim demand and stretching civil liberties to the limit trying to appease them. It is going to bite us in the ass.
Chuck

5:27 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

I share your pessimissm. Chatham House is not the only group worried about a greater war.

I'm working on material for a larger post tonight (hopefully).

I found this: Saudi Arabia and fellow Iraq neighbours Iran and Turkey voiced concern on Monday that Iraqi sectarian and ethnic tensions could spill over into the region, home to a similar ethnic and religious mix.

5:30 PM  

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