Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A very careful read of the sobering NIE

A quick, initial update (1910 EST). Two passages stick in my mind:
1.) If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives

2.) We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.
This NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) states that the "jihad" in Iraq has lead to the cultivation of support for militant Islam. It presents democratic reforms as a long-term (partial) solution, namely a five year process, (passage 1). Democratic reform would encourage political solutions as opposed to militant ones. However, the "underlying factors fueling the spread" of militant Islam will "outweigh" the movements' (plural possessive is intentional) weaknesses. Or, it will continue to spread for some time before those reforms counter this trend (passage 2).

The NIE also states that the perception of jihadist victory in Iraq is a danger. The perception of jihadist defeat is an asset. This seems to be both reasonable and demonstratable by the result of jihadist victory in Afghanistan. This point, however, states simply that the results of the war in Iraq will be crucial to national security as it will diminish the long-term threat from jihadists. It is at this point that we must ask: has George W. Bush conducted the war in Iraq well, or is it time for new leadership and a new strategy?

So, both sides of the political aisle have tugged at this NIE since Sunday, but like a good intelligence document it declines easy spin to one political advantage.

My original post...

There is a lot about Iraq in this, but it does address the broader war on terror. I think this NIE is meant to evoke caution in a long-term sense. Iraq is still a magnet for global jihadists, but that magnet may soon yield trouble throughout the world.

My thoughts after my second read of the NIE leads me to focus on these passages. I will expand this entry later. Some comments have been entered in brackets:
We also assess that the global jihadist movement — which includes al Qa’ida [Present operational regions include: Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan.], affiliated and independent terrorist groups [Kashmir inspired groups in Pakistan, to name one.], and emerging networks and cells — is spreading and adapting to counterterrorism efforts.

Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body [note this adjective, "large"] of all-source reporting [intelligence and open-source] indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.

If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide. [Countermeasures will degrade as threats become more diverse.]

Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some [note this adjective, "some"] of the grievances jihadists exploit. Over time, such progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al-Qa’ida, could erode support for the jihadists.

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

The Iraq conflict has become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight. [Perception of the fight in Muslim minds is crucial. The jihadists were viewed with deep respect after the Soviets left Afghanistan.]

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate. [It will get worse before it gets better.]

Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq "jihad"; (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims - all of which jihadists exploit. [This NIE was released before the Israeli-Hezbollah war, which further inflamed anti-US sentiment in the Middle East.]

Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists' radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.

Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also
could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror. [Present opinion is quite infuriated with our occupation of Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the support we gave Israel against Hezbollah.]

If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives [Groups may be willing to denounce violence, recognize enemy nations, etc.] Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.

The increased role of Iraqis in managing the operations of al-Qaida in Iraq might lead veteran foreign jihadists to focus their efforts on external operations.

Other affiliated Sunni extremist organizations, such as Jemaah Islamiya, Ansar al-Sunnah, and several North African groups, unless countered, are likely to expand their reach and become more capable of multiple and/or mass-casualty attacks outside their traditional areas of operation. [The report believes these groups are not as great of a threat to the United States homeland as al Qaeda presently is.]

We judge that most jihadist groups -- both well-known and newly formed -- will use improvised explosive devices and suicide attacks focused primarily on soft targets to implement their asymmetric warfare strategy, and that they will attempt to conduct sustained terrorist attacks in urban environments [Which countries?]. Fighters with experience in Iraq are a potential source of leadership for jihadists pursuing these tactics.

While Iran, and to a lesser extent Syria, remain the most active state sponsors of terrorism, many other states will be unable to prevent territory or resources from being exploited by terrorists. [Iraq's trouble with al Anbar. Areas beyond government control in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Weak states in Africa.]

3 Comments:

Blogger Publia said...

You really should have a column. I am glad you are writing the blog--you are well ahead of what others are saying and thinking.

6:03 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Thank you very much for reading. Might I suggest you check out those lovely Google ads! ;-)

What is your take on this NIE?

8:49 PM  
Blogger Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

Hi there,

Superb "explication de texte" as my Gallic litterature teacher used to say!

You should have a column indeed.

On another topic, I have a technical problem with the comments section of my last posting: the total number of comments is blocked at 1 even though there are more (you only see them in the "Save a Commeent" pop-up window).

Can you help?

Thanks.

3:07 AM  

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