Might help if the guv decided to act upon the most accurate of those assessments, and disregard those less than stellar pieces. Poor track record so far, so I don't expect the public to get with the program any time soon.
U.S. Study Finds Progress in Iraq, but Fragile Security and Potential for Terror Attacks
By MARK MAZZETTI and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: April 4, 2008
WASHINGTON‚ÄĒA new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq cites significant security improvements and progress toward healing sectarian political rifts, but concludes that security remains fragile and terrorist groups remain capable of initiating large attacks, several American government officials said this week.
The classified document provides a more upbeat analysis of conditions in Iraq than the last major assessment by United States spy agencies, last summer. It was completed this week, just days before the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, is due in Washington to give lawmakers a progress report on the military strategy in Iraq.
While the last assessment painted a grim picture of an Iraqi government paralyzed by sectarian strife, the new intelligence estimate cites slow but steady progress by Iraqi politicians on forging alliances between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq, said the government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the document is classified.
At the same time, officials said that the document detailed several factors that could reverse these trends: including a campaign of violence by Shiite splinter groups and the possibility that the government would not carry out a series of reconciliation laws Iraq‚Äôs Parliament passed recently. Some Bush administration officials said that the report presented positive news, but they remained cautious about the future.
‚ÄúThe N.I.E. update confirmed that the surge strategy the president announced in January of last year is working,‚ÄĚ said one senior administration official. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs more work to be done, but progress has obviously been made.‚ÄĚ
The document was described by American officials on both sides of the Iraq debate, including officials who favor rapid withdrawals of American troops beyond those already scheduled through June.
It was not clear whether the estimate includes a detailed discussion of what might happen should those withdrawals continue, something that the two Democratic presidential candidates have sought. One intelligence official said that the document concluded that American efforts against the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia helped diminish its ability to carry out attacks in Baghdad, and that a grass-roots movement to turn Iraqis against the group had made progress since last summer. American officials contend the largely Iraqi group has some foreign leaders.
But the American government officials also said that the estimate warned that security gains could be upended and that militant groups were still capable of deadly attacks in Baghdad, the capital.
Among the factors seen as contributing to the ebb in violence in Iraq have been the cease-fire observed by the Mahdi Army, the militia founded by the cleric Moktada al-Sadr. That was broken last week by fighting in Basra and other cities in the Shiite-dominated south between Iraqi security forces and the militia.
National Intelligence Estimates represent a consensus of America‚Äôs 16 intelligence agencies. They are submitted to members of Congress and senior administration officials. Ross Feinstein, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence, who oversees the estimates, declined to comment on the Iraq assessment. On Thursday, intelligence officials said that they had no plans to declassify the latest estimate, even though the administration made public the major findings of the one last summer. In a letter on Thursday to Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, two senior Democratic senators said there was ‚Äúno compelling reason‚ÄĚ to keep the latest document classified.
‚ÄúWithout a current unclassified assessment of the situation in Iraq, Congress and the American people will not have the essential information needed for an informed public debate,‚ÄĚ said the letter, written by Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.