Newly-disclosed intelligence reports state that Bush’s escalation is negatively impacting the situation in Iraq and is unlikely to change the level of violence on the ground.
In yesterday’s “war czar” confirmation hearing for Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) revealed the latest “secret intelligence conclusions,” presented by top U.S. intelligence officials during a closed-door session with the Armed Services Committee last month. The conclusions largely tracked the findings of the last National Intelligence Estimate, which found Iraq to be in a state worse than civil war.
Bayh disclosed that in the closed-door hearing, the intelligence officials emphasized that a sustained U.S. presence will not aid political reconciliation nor quell sectarian violence in the near future:
Their overall consensus was that the trend in Iraq is negative. … Their assessment was that the prospect for political steps in Iraq toward meaningful reconciliation among the different parties, that those steps toward reconciliation — the political steps — would be marginal at best through the end of this calendar year. … We were also told that the state of the insurgency — the level of violence and that sort of thing — was in all likelihood going to be about where it is today a year from now.
Bayh quoted “the top CIA expert on radical Islam,” who told him recently that the U.S. presence in Iraq is generating more terrorists:
[I]n his opinion, our presence in Iraq is creating more members of Al Qaida than we are killing in Iraq.
That assessment debunks Bush’s contention that we must stay in Iraq in order to defeat al Qaeda. Lute agreed with all of the intelligence conclusions, stating that “very little progress” has been shown thus far. Explaining that there is no military solution in Iraq, Lute said “we’re not likely to see much difference in the security situation” if political and economic steps are not taken.
BAYH: We had a briefing in the intel world on Iraq last week. And I’d like to share with you the consensus view of the intelligence community and get your reaction to that.
Their overall consensus was that the trend in Iraq is negative, that there are occasional bright spots — for example, some developments in Al Anbar province — but that those positive developments are within the context of an overall negative trend.
Do you share that assessment?
LUTE: I think, Senator, when you consider beyond simply the security setting — but also looking at the opportunities presented to the Iraqi government to make progress on important political and economic measures with the intent of reconciliation — that I share that at best the progress has been uneven.
BAYH: Well, let me follow up on that. There may be some convergence of opinions there.
Their assessment was that the prospect for political steps in Iraq toward meaningful reconciliation among the different parties, that those steps toward reconciliation — the political steps — would be marginal at best through the end of this calendar year.
BAYH: And we all agree that political reconciliation is sort of the key to this ultimately working out. They simply don’t think.
And I was interested in your colloquy with Senator Warner about your belief that they have the right intentions in terms of embracing the benchmarks but don’t have the capacity.
I would encourage you to retain a healthy level of skepticism about that. I mean, these folks were thinking about taking two months off this summer. Now they’ve, you know, gone back on that.
But where’s the sense of urgency? Their country’s at risk of falling apart, and they just don’t seem to grasp the need to move forward here in material ways.
So my question would be, do you share the intelligence community’s assessment that the political steps toward reconciliation are likely to be marginal at best through the end of this calendar year?
LUTE: Senator, my assessment would be that they have a very full agenda and have shown, so far, very little progress.
BAYH: We were also told that the state of the insurgency — the level of violence and that sort of thing — was in all likelihood going to be about where it is today a year from now.
Do you have an opinion about that?
LUTE: Senator, in the absence of the kind of political and economic steps that are before the Iraqi government now, if they don’t make progress on those sorts of reconciliation measures, I’d share the view that we’re not likely to see much difference in the security situation.
BAYH: Well, I would encourage you to focus — and you said our leverage was limited and that, you know, they are, sort of, feeling their way along here.
I think, as Senator Warner pointed out, I think many Americans are deeply concerned about asking our brave soldiers, who I know you care deeply about, to sacrifice themselves while a group of Iraqi political leaders get their act together.
And I think the American people understand the need for some degree of patience and resolve. But where’s the evidence that they’re doing their part? And so I would look — I would encourage you to focus on whatever leverage we have.
And some of us have concluded — you know, I think some of — Senator Warner, perhaps — some of us will take a look at September and that time frame — but that they’re just not doing enough; and that trying to build up their confidence doesn’t seem to have worked too well and that perhaps the opposite strategy of saying, Look, you’re either going to do this or not, but you need to get on with it here, that perhaps that sort of approach might be more fruitful because the other avenue just hadn’t worked.
LUTE: Senator, I’d just add, if I may, that while it’s important for us to focus on the results coming out of the government of Iraq, for the good of Iraq, that whatever those results, the United States, in my view, retains long-term enduring interest in the region, which has us with a national interest in the outcome in Iraq. So we have to balance what’s good for Iraq with what’s good for the United States in the region.
BAYH: Well, I agree with that.
LUTE: And there’s a careful balance there.
BAYH: We have to pursue our interests in the most intelligent way.
BAYH: And with regard to your colloquy with Senator Lieberman, my dear friend, about Al Qaida and that sort of thing, we cannot let Al Qaida define how most intelligently to pursue our national security interests, which leads me to something else that the CIA’s top expert on radical Islam had to say last week.
And that is, in his opinion, our presence in Iraq is creating more members of Al Qaida than we are killing in Iraq.
Do you have an opinion about that?
LUTE: Well, again, Senator, I think we have to balance those sorts of assessments, which I think have some credibility, with a gross adjustment in the other direction, which might feature leaving Iraq to Al Qaida.