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Published on Wednesday, October 8, 2008 by McClatchy Newspapers
by Jonathan S. Landay, Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef
WASHINGTON - A nearly completed high-level U.S. intelligence analysis warns that unresolved ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iraq could unleash a new wave of violence, potentially reversing the major security and political gains achieved over the last year.
More than a half-dozen officials spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because NIE's, the most authoritative analyses produced by the
The new NIE, which reflects the consensus of all 16
The findings seem to cast doubts on McCain's frequent assertions that the
But McCain could also use the findings to try to strengthen his argument for keeping
For Obama, the report raises questions about whether he could fulfill his pledge to withdraw most of the remaining 152,000 U.S. troops _ he would leave some there to deal with al Qaida and to protect U.S. diplomats and civilians _ within 16 months of taking office so that more U.S. forces could be sent to battle the growing Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Word of the draft NIE comes at a time when
U.S. officials say last year's surge of 30,000 troops, all of whom have been withdrawn, was just one reason for the improvements. Other factors include the truce declared by anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of an Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militia; and the enlistment of former Sunni insurgents in Awakening groups created by the U.S. military to fight al Qaida in Iraq and other extremists.
The draft NIE, however, warns that the improvements in security and political progress, like the recent passage of a provincial election law, are threatened by lingering disputes between the majority Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, Kurds and other minorities, the
Sources of tension identified by the NIE, they said, include a struggle between Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen for control of the oil-rich northern city of
A spokesman for Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, whose office compiled the estimate, declined comment, saying the agency does not discuss NIE's.
The findings of the intelligence estimate appear to be reflected in recent statements by Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former top
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed that tone on Monday during a State Department awards ceremony for Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to
"Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is certain in this life. And success in
The NIE findings parallel a Defense Department assessment last month that warned that despite "promising developments, security gains in
Trouble spots include whether the former Sunni insurgents, also known as the Sons of
The intelligence agencies' estimate also raises worries about what would happen if Sadr, the anti-U.S. cleric, attempts to reassert himself, according to senior intelligence officials familiar with its contents.
If Sadr abandons his cease-fire, it is unclear whether his former followers would rejoin his cause or whether his movement is permanently fractured, and thus harder to control.
The embattled Sons of
Many of the roughly 100,000 men of the mostly Sunni paramilitary groups have fled to
Leila Fadel contributed from
© 2008 McClatchy Newspapers
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs