Thursday, August 23, 2007

Report Cites Grave Concerns on Iraq’s Government

WASHINGTON, Aug. 23 — The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki will become “more precarious” over the next six months to a year, and while its security forces have improved they are not strong enough to operate without outside help, American intelligence officials said today in a grim new assessment of the situation in Iraq.

“Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively,” a report concluded as it expressed deep doubts that Mr. Maliki’s government can overcome sectarian differences. Implicitly, at least, the report questioned whether Mr. Maliki is willing or able to help the new Iraq become a fully functioning country.

Moreover, the report said that changing the mission of American and allied troops from going after insurgents to providing combat support for Iraqi forces, “would erode security gains achieved thus far.” A number of critics of President Bush’s policy have called for such an approach.

The report said there had been “measurable but uneven improvements” in the overall security situation since President Bush ordered an increase in American troop strength in Iraq early in the year. But despite those improvements, sectarian violence remains high, with insurgents able to carry out high-profile attacks, the report found.

Iraq remains riven because of the Shiites’ insecurity about retaining political dominance, “widespread Sunni unwillingness to accept a diminished political status,” various other sectarian rivalries and the work of terrorists, the report, formally known as a National Intelligence Estimate, concluded. (The Shiites are in the majority in Iraq, but the Sunnis enjoyed a long period of dominance under Saddam Hussein, who was a Sunni.)

As the end of the Congressional recess draws closer, the debate over Iraq policy will only intensify, and the new intelligence assessment, called “Prospects for Iraq’s Stability” is likely to play an important role in that discussion........

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