“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, August 24, 2007

National Intelligence Security on Iraq

Prospects for Iraq’s Stability:

Some Security Progress but
Political Reconciliation Elusive

Update to NIE, Prospects for Iraq’s
Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead

Key Judgments

There have been measurable but uneven improvements in Iraq’s security situation since our last National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq in January 2007. The steep escalation of rates of violence has been checked for now, and overall attack levels across Iraq have fallen during seven of the last nine weeks.
Coalition forces, working with Iraqi forces, tribal elements,
and some Sunni insurgents, have reduced al-Qa’ida in Iraq’s (AQI) capabilities, restricted its freedom of movement, and denied it grassroots support in some areas. However, the level of overall violence, including attacks on and casualties among civilians, remains high; Iraq’s sectarian groups remain unreconciled; AQI retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks;and to date, Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively. There have been modest improvements in economic output, budget execution, and government finances but fundamental structural problems continue to prevent sustained progress in economic growth and living conditions.

We assess, to the extent that Coalition forces continue to conduct robust counterinsurgency operations and mentor and support the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), that Iraq’s security will continue to improve modestly during the next six to 12 months but that levels of insurgent and sectarian violence will remain high and the Iraqi Government will continue to struggle to achieve national-level political reconciliation and improved governance.

Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments.

Political and security trajectories in Iraq continue to be driven primarily by Shia insecurity about retaining political dominance, widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status, factional rivalries within the sectarian communities resulting in armed conflict, and the actions of extremists such as AQI and elements of the Sadrist Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) militia that try to fuel sectarian violence.
Two new drivers have emerged since the January Estimate: expanded Sunni opposition to AQI and Iraqi expectation of a Coalition drawdown. Perceptions that the Coalition is withdrawing probably will encourage factions anticipating a power vacuum to seek local security solutions that could intensify sectarian violence and intra-sectarian competition. At the same time, fearing a Coalition withdrawal, some tribal elements and Sunni groups probably will continue to seek accommodation with the Coalition to strengthen themselves for a post- Coalition security environment.
  • Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded in the last six to nine months but has not yet translated into broad Sunni Arab support for the Iraqi Government or widespread willingness to work with the Shia. The Iraqi Government’s Shia leaders fear these groups will ultimately side with armed opponents of the government, but the Iraqi Government has supported some initiatives to incorporate those rejecting AQI into Interior Ministry and Defense Ministry elements.

  • Intra-Shia conflict involving factions competing for power and resources probably will intensify as Iraqis assume control of provincial security. In Basrah, violence has escalated with the drawdown of Coalition forces there. Local militias show few signs of reducing their competition for control of valuable oil resources and territory.

  • The Sunni Arab community remains politically fragmented, and we see no prospective leaders that might engage in meaningful dialogue and deliver on national agreements.

  • Kurdish leaders remain focused on protecting the autonomy of the Kurdish region and reluctant to compromise on key issues.

The IC assesses that the emergence of “bottom-up” security initiatives, principally among Sunni Arabs and focused on combating AQI, represent the best prospect for improved security over the next six to 12 months, but we judge these initiatives will only translate into widespread political accommodation and enduring stability if the Iraqi Government accepts and supports them. A multi-stage process involving the Iraqi Government providing support and legitimacy for such initiatives could foster over thelonger term political reconciliation between the participating Sunni Arabs and the national government. We also assess that under some conditions “bottom-up initiatives” could pose risks to the Iraqi Government.

  • We judge such initiatives are most likely to succeed in predominantly Sunni Arab areas, where the presence of AQI elements has been significant, tribal networks and identities are strong, the local government is weak, sectarian conflict is low, and the ISF tolerate Sunni initiatives, as illustrated by Al Anbar Province.

  • Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded, and neighborhood security groups, occasionally consisting of mixed Shia-Sunni units, have proliferated in the past several months. These trends, combined with increased Coalition operations, have eroded AQI’s operational presence and capabilities in some areas.

  • Such initiatives, if not fully exploited by the Iraqi Government, could over time also shift greater power to the regions, undermine efforts to impose central authority, and reinvigorate armed opposition to the Baghdad government.

  • Coalition military operations focused on improving population security, both in and outside of Baghdad, will remain critical to the success of local and regional efforts until sectarian fears are diminished enough to enable the Shia-led Iraqi Government to fully support the efforts of local Sunni groups.

Iraqi Security Forces involved in combined operations with Coalition forces have performed adequately, and some units have demonstrated increasing professional competence. However, we judge that the ISF have not improved enough to conduct major operations independent of the Coalition on a sustained basis in multiple locations and that the ISF remain reliant on the Coalition for important aspects of logistics and combat support.

  • The deployment of ISF units from throughout Iraq to Baghdad in support of security operations known as Operation Fardh al-Qanun marks significant progress since last year when large groups of soldiers deserted rather than depart their home areas, but Coalition and Iraqi Government support remains critical.

  • Recently, the Iraqi military planned and conducted two joint Army and police large-scale security operations in Baghdad, demonstrating an improving capacity for operational command and control.

  • Militia and insurgent influences continue to undermine the reliability of some ISF units, and political interference in security operations continues to undermine Coalition and ISF efforts.

  • The Maliki government is implementing plans to expand the Iraqi Army and to increase its overall personnel strength to address critical gaps, but we judge that significant security gains from those programs will take at least six to 12 months, and probably longer, to materialize.

The IC assesses that the Iraqi Government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months because of criticism by other members of the major Shia coalition (the Unified Iraqi Alliance, UIA), Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and other Sunni and Kurdish parties. Divisions between Maliki and the Sadrists have increased, and Shia factions have explored alternative coalitions aimed at constraining Maliki.

  • The strains of the security situation and absence of key leaders have stalled internal political debates, slowed national decisionmaking, and increased Maliki’s vulnerability to alternative coalitions.

  • We judge that Maliki will continue to benefit from recognition among Shia leaders that searching for a replacement could paralyze the government.

Population displacement resulting from sectarian violence continues, imposing burdens on provincial governments and some neighboring states and increasing the danger of destabilizing influences spreading across Iraq’s borders over the next six to 12 months.The polarization of communities is most evident in Baghdad, where the Shia are a clear majority in more than half of all neighborhoods and Sunni areas have become surrounded by predominately Shia districts. Where population displacements have led to significant sectarian separation, conflict levels have diminished to some extent because warring communities find it more difficult to penetrate communal enclaves.

The IC assesses that Iraq’s neighbors will continue to focus on improving their leverage in Iraq in anticipation of a Coalition drawdown. Assistance to armed groups, especially from Iran, exacerbates the violence inside Iraq, and the reluctance of the Sunni states that are generally supportive of US regional goals to offer support to the Iraqi Government probably bolsters Iraqi Sunni Arabs’ rejection of the government’s legitimacy.

  • Over the next year Tehran, concerned about a Sunni reemergence in Iraq and US effortsto limit Iranian influence, will continue to provide funding, weaponry, and training to Iraqi Shia militants. Iran has been intensifying aspects of its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants, particularly the JAM, since at least the beginning of 2006. Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks have risen dramatically.

  • Syria has cracked down on some Sunni extremist groups attempting to infiltrate fighters into Iraq through Syria because of threats they pose to Syrian stability, but the IC now assesses that Damascus is providing support to non-AQI groups inside Iraq in a bid to increase Syrian influence.

  • Turkey probably would use a range of measures to protect what it perceives as its interests in Iraq. The risk of cross-border operations against the People’s Congress of Kurdistan (KG) terrorist group based in northern Iraq remains.

We assess that changing the mission of Coalition forces from a primarily
counterinsurgency and stabilization role to a primary combat support role for Iraqi forces and counterterrorist operations to prevent AQI from establishing a safehaven would erode security gains achieved thus far. The impact of a change in mission on Iraq’s political and security environment and throughout the region probably would vary in intensity and suddenness of onset in relation to the rate and scale of a Coalition redeployment. Developments within the Iraqi communities themselves will be decisive in determining political and security trajectories.

  • Recent security improvements in Iraq, including success against AQI, have depended significantly on the close synchronization of conventional counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. A change of mission that interrupts that synchronization would place security improvements at risk. The entire pdf


  1. We could have gotten (and did) the same information and assessment from a multitude of independent journalists and security analysts. Come to think of it, perhaps that is where the NIE authors got their information also.

    I would like to know the extent of involvement by Iraq's neighbors (Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia).

    Based on articles like this it would appear that the most significant "help" from the Sunni world has been al-Qaeda.

    When will the Muslim world realise that al-Qaeda is a cancer which is best excised early?

  2. "We could have gotten (and did) the same information and assessment from a multitude of independent journalists and security analysts. Come to think of it, perhaps that is where the NIE authors got their information also.

    "I would like to know the extent of involvement by Iraq's neighbors (Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia)."

    Its classified version is better. We'll see what sneaks out of the Senate.

    NIEs are consensus statements, splitting the difference between everyone who's got a say and in any case following the desired or established policy. In other words, they're political documents.

    Worth the paper they're printed on?


  3. The open sources, whit, the independent journalists, security analysts and public statements from US spokesmen lay it out pretty plainly.

    Remember that piece about the Iranians, those 50 individuals the US was tracking, but not detaining or killing, in Iraq.

    The Syrians, 80 individuals are said to be crossing into Iraq, each month.

    The Saudi involvement is the least discussed, but in the same numeric realm.

    Handfuls of individuals, not connected to any of the legitimate governments of any of those countries.

    In regards the Iranians, the Revolutionary Guards, or perhaps just the Quds may come to be designated terrorists, not the entire Iranian Government. The US has held off, even on that small step, so obviously the Iranian government's involvement is minor. Not worthy of a terrorist or "enemy" designation by US. In fact we are funneling monies into Iran through the World Bank, subsidizing their developmental projects. $220 million this year, another $820 million in the pipeline.

    Syria, that is where Mr Maliki was when Mr Levin said he should be replaced. Last I read from the open sources the Syrians were shifting their support from aQI to the Sunni militias, following the US lead. The Syrians now allied to US proxies, making Syria the friend of US friends. Mr Maliki, in Damascus to cement those relationships. On the path to regional reconciliation, but being under cut by US politicos, the Democrats in particular.
    A way for the Dems to keep the "War" going, to spice up their chances in the '08 elections?

    The Sauds? Soon to be the reciprients of a $20 Billion USD arms package. A US ally in deed.

    There have been no publicized cases of hot pursuit into any of the countries surrounding Iraq, though there were some border clashes, on both the Syrian and Iranian frontiers. The US explained those incidents away, by saying those borders are poorly defined.

    There are many reports that the Iranians are utilizing elements of their "soft power" in Iraq, but that is, according to the Iraqi government, a welcome sign. The two countries having signed trade agreements and such, to stimilate more of that type of activity.

    The IAEA has announced an agreement with the Iranians on the nuclear issues.

    The problems and challenges in Iraq are purely local, not part of a regional conflagration, as per Hamdan v Remsfeld. SCOTUS had it right, which is why the President and the Republican Congress developed the remedy, to that decision, that they did.

    It's all good.

  4. Here's a congressman. a democrat, from western Washington state who was against the war from the git-go, and now thinks that a precipitous withdrawal would be a mistake. The whole coastal, urbanized part of Washington state is the stronghold of the democrats in that state. Get over the Cascades,to the east. you might find a republican or two.

  5. What is "a precipitous withdrawal"?

    Ms Clinton and Mr Obama, have I believe, discussed an 18 to 24 month timeline for withdrawal.

    That is as fast as the US could leave, taking most of our stuff with US.

    Would that be a precipitus withdrawal?

    Or does a precipitus withdrawal mean destroying US equipment in place, boarding chartered airliners and beating a swift bug-out retreat?

    Would Mr Warner's suggestion of 5,000 troops home for Christmas be a precipitous withdrawal?

    Or is any withdrawal, prior to General Mixon's two year estimate or Mr Cordesman's three to five year estimate of Iraqi forces sustainability, to be considered precipitous?

    The definition of precipitous:
    "hasty: done with very great haste and without due deliberation."

    That would rule out almost any US withdrawal, at this point in time, as there has been a great amount of political deliberation, in Congress, on the subject of withdrawal.

    An 18 to 24 month timeline, not hasty. Mr Gates wrote to Ms Clinton to tell her that "Plans" for a non-precipitous withdrawal were in the works.

    Who, in a position of authority, does favor a "precipitous withdrawal".
    One done without deliberation?

    Even the Democrats, like Mr Reid and Mr Murtha, favor planning and deliberation, setting the start date for any withdrawal months in advance.
    Not precipitious at all.

  6. What is
    "a precipitous withdrawal"?
    It's a Hell of a mess, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise:

    Ask any of those folks in the midwest paddling around in canoes, and you'll find out soon enough.
    Find some High Ground, and wait out the storm.

  7. A 'precipitous withdrawal' is a withdrawal before accomplishing....ah you know. Ask the congressman.

  8. Is Warner still married to Liz?
    I'd probly withdraw precipitously from that.

  9. Marriages
    Warner's first marriage was to banking heiress Catherine Mellon, the granddaughter of billionaire Andrew Mellon, with whom he has three children; they divorced in 1973. He married actress Elizabeth Taylor on December 4, 1976; they divorced November 7, 1982. He married real estate agent Jeanne Vander Myde on December 15, 2003.
    No farm girls for John!

  10. He is one of five World War II veterans left in the United States Senate.[1] (the others are Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).)
    I don't think many would include Lautenberg as one of the LIVING WWII vets in the Senate.
    Last time I looked, InNoWay and Acocka could pass for Korean vets.
    Akaka just wants to pass Hawaiian Nationhood, however.

  11. He joined the Marine Corps in October 1950, after the outbreak of the Korean War, and served in Korea as a ground officer with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. He continued in the Marine Corps Reserves after the war, eventually reaching the rank of captain. He then resumed his studies, receiving his law degree in 1953. That year, he became a law clerk to Chief Judge E. Barrett Prettyman of the United States Court of Appeals. In 1956, he became an assistant US attorney; in 1960 he entered private law practice.

    Speaking of Prettymen, I've been telling everyone I run into that San Fran Joke Rufus linked to.
    Brought down the house at the doctor's office and Radio Shack.
    (some good guffaws, at least)

  12. Liz left the truck driver, and is now on her own, I think. If she is still alive. Is she still alive? I always thought she was way over rated as an actress, anyway. Those Gabor girls had her beat by 'a country mile'.

  13. :) That was a funny joke, alright.

    Liz didn't seem to have much of a sense of humor, and always seemed to come over as kind of stuck-up. The Gabors, they knew how to laugh.

  14. "In 1994, Warner campaigned for a former state Republican Attorney General turned Independent candidate Marshall Coleman against fellow Republican Oliver North in North's unsuccessful campaign to unseat Virginia's Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb. North's loss to Robb was very close, with Coleman finishing in single digits and looking like a spoiler. This time, Warner's actions were seen as the direct cause of a fellow Republican's loss.
    Once an Asshole,
    Always an Asshole.

  15. Yeah, right up to the time her stupid chaufer slammed her into a light poles.
    Still alive, I think, but don't know how she's doing.

    Her husband, the Count was recently found nude in his Mercedes.
    Euros will be Euros.

  16. " chauffeur " Kato Kalin.

  17. Always a GD Lawyer to make nonsense out of common sense.
    Comment in reply to esq Volokh:

    Bpbatista (mail):
    If you know who the bad guy is on day one -- why do you spend two subsequent years "investigating"?

    If OJ confessed the day after the murders, why would I march Kato Kalin in front of the grand jury on multiple occasions over the next 2 years? There was no underlying violation and, even if there was, Fitzsimmons knew who did it literally on the day he started. He should have folded up shop and gone home.

  18. ...and He never has liars Wilson and Plame testify.

  19. See, I'm back to
    "National Intelligence Security on Iraq"

  20. The Count was found nude in the Mercedes? jeez, but at least he didn't 'bring the baby home.'!

  21. At the Weekly Standard there is a rebuttal of sorts to the piece by the NCOs of the 82nd Airborne.

    It falls short of disputing what those paratroopers wrote, though the title of the piece "Iraq Vets Respond" promised more.

    It does not, in my opinion refute or challenge any of the statements made by the paratroopers. Little wonder that the NYTimes did not publish it.

    As for moving the debate, they score few "points"

    Maybe it's just me and some of you may have a different take on it. Be happy to hear from a different perspective.

  22. TBILISI, Georgia (Associated Press) -- Georgian forces fired on a Russian plane flying over Georgian territory earlier this week, a government official said Friday, claiming residents nearby reported an explosion and forest fire afterward.

    "The day before yesterday, at 22:24 hours, fire was opened at a Russian plane over Upper Abkhazia," Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told The Associated Press.

    He said authorities could not confirm the plane crashed, but that residents of the remote area reported hearing an explosion and seeing forest burning.

  23. Harhaarhar--LatrineLurkerLockedUp

    Kind of reminds me of Rufus's joke for some reason.

  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  25. The Weekly Standard piece is really a non-response, Rat. They do it because they feel obligated (as they did during the so-called Generals' Revolt). And, hey, don't we sometimes all.

    To call this the Weekly Standard's war would be incorrect.

    It's the Weekly Standard's war.

  26. There's my problem right there. 14 guys from the 82nd saying differing things. Same with all the commentators I read. These guys say, we're making progress, clearing, and holding this time. But when they leave will it hold? Well, maybe. What if the Iragi mainly Shia army comes in? Well, maybe they'll fight them. I'd think that after a while so much killing and ethnic cleansing would have been done, the violence would subside by itself. But maybe they can keep it up indefinitely. So I'm back to, I just don't know, for sure. Shinsheki(sp) was right, we needed more troops. I imagine the administration agreed with that, but felt they couldn't risk taking them from elsewhere, or simply didn't have enough. After all, if I thought at the time Shinsheki was right, it must not be too deep a military problem. On the other hand they say they didn't want to leave too big a footprint, etc. Back to, I don't know.

  27. Here's a good article about the group of Thugs currently running Russia. Good for the Georgians if they shot a Russian plane down. Serves them right.

  28. Well, bob, the second group were not from the 82nd. They have not been stationed in Iraq, recently.

    David Bellavia, Pete Hegseth, Michael Baumann, Carl Hartmann, David Thul, Knox Nunnally, and Joe Dan Worley all served with either the Army or Marine Corps in Iraq, and are all members of Vets for Freedom.

    Well the Vets for Freedom were not there during the Surge, anyway, or they'd not be Vets, yet, but still on active duty.
    As they say, the Surge is only 2 months old. Indicating they are writing from afar, unlike the paratroopers.

    The paratroopers claimed that the percieved success of the surge, in Anbar, is US-centric. The Vets for Freedom do not dispute that.

    The paratroopers tell US that the COIN operations in Anbar, being US-centric, are at cross purposes to US supporting the central government. The Vets for Freedom do not dispute that.

    The paratroopers tell US the Iraqi Army is not to be trusted, the Vets for Freedom do not dispute that.

    The Vets for Freedom tell US nothing that disputes the what the paratroopers wrote. Only tell US that even more time is needed, to build more "local security".

    Which the paratroopers and the NIE tell US is not the same as supporting the Iraqi Government

    From the NIE:
    ... Sunni Arab resistance to AQI has expanded in the last six to nine months but has not yet translated into broad Sunni Arab support for the Iraqi Government or widespread willingness to work with the Shia. The Iraqi Government’s Shia leaders fear these groups will ultimately side with armed opponents of the government ...

    Their argument that the paratroopers do not yet see the results of the surge, results that none of the Vets for Freedom have been there to see either, not really to be taken seriously as from the field reporting.

  29. I stand corrected about the 82nd.
    The whole thing is so Byzantine and bizarre as to make one's head spin. Up next, the Sadrs vs. the Hakims, a fight I might actually get some pleasure out of watching.

  30. "...or simply didn't have enough."

    Gonna need a bigger boat, bob.

    But there are legitimate reasons for arguing against that, too.

  31. The book I just read "The Places In Between" by Rory Stewart--he walked across the worst of Afghanistan--great book, not much really happens, but really well written--I got to tell you, I think it would take an act of Allah to really change anything there. Grim.

    No schools, no community, nothing. Just some war lords. No plumbing. Kabul, that great city, might as well be on the moon, for all they care. Yet, they showed him hospitality too, really odd.

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  33. Sheriff Joe busts rapper DMX's home for animal cruelty in Maricopa County, AZ.

    DMX's lawyer says that DMX has not been there for over two months, and is upset that his dogs have been mishandled by the house sitters.

    Turned in by the neighbors.

    Dead dogs, buried in the backyard.
    Here in Cave Creek, AZ.
    My home town.

  34. Wonder if there is anything else buried in that backyard. Sheriff Joe must be a busy man.

  35. The pictures of the surviving dogs indicate they were not well taken care of.
    Reason enough to be upset, if they were my dogs.
    But then, it does not take long to dehydrate a dog in 110 degree heat. So, if DMX has not been here for two months, hard to convict him.
    Sheriff Joe says they found guns, drug paraphernalia and cars that do not match the license plates.

    House sitters, hard to find good help.

  36. westhawk has an interesting take on the NIE and General Pace's comments on the continued deployment in Iraq.

    Administration and military officials say Marine Gen. Peter Pace is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military. This assessment could collide with one being prepared by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, calling for the U.S. to maintain higher troop levels for 2008 and beyond.


    Pace's recommendations reflect the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who initially expressed private skepticism about the strategy ordered by Bush and directed by Petraeus, before publicly backing it.

    According to administration and military officials, the Joint Chiefs believe it is of crucial strategic importance to reduce the size of the U.S. force in Iraq in order to bolster the military's ability to respond to other threats, a view that is shared by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.


    According to a senior administration official, the Joint Chiefs in recent weeks have pressed concerns that the Iraq war has degraded the U.S. military's ability to respond, if needed, to other threats, such as Iran.

    The chiefs are pushing for a significant decrease in troop levels once the current buildup comes to an end -- perhaps to about half of the 20 combat brigades now in Iraq. Along with support units, that would lower the U.S. presence to fewer than 100,000 troops from the current 162,000.

    A precipitous or deliberate withdrawal?

  37. House sitting--jobs Americans don't do well--if they were Americans:)

  38. "We should assume that President Bush will interpret the last two paragraphs of the NIE in the conventional manner, affirming a decision to stay the course as much as is logistically possible. By doing so, he is taking what is an increasingly reckless gamble that no other contingency requiring significant ground forces suddenly emerges."

    - westhawk

    Well, the NIE's purpose is to affirm, so there aren't any presidentially gratifying surprises there.

    The strategically reckless gamble has already been taken. It was taken in 2003.

    The Chiefs don't fear troop availability for another conflagration. Not at this point. They fear the concrete limits of ground force troop rotations.

    The number will NEVER go below 125,000 during this administration in any event

  39. Whaddya wanna bet, though, that Gates is kept on for the first two years of the next administration (Democrat or Republican, makes no diff) and overseas the reduction the JCS would like to have had sooner?

    That is, if he's not driven to despair and packing up office by Christmas 08.

    I see him as the ONLY potential holdover.