Saturday, February 3, 2007

New NIE Exposes Lies And Hides Truths, But May Show 'The New Way Forward'

The long-awaited National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq has finally been partially declassified, and there are lots of reasons why it's safe to call it a remarkable document.

As Larisa Alexandrovna points out in an excellent piece, it flat-out slam-dunks one of the so-called president's most favored lies:
As expected, the consensus among all 16 intelligence agencies debunks the latest White House talking point (something along the lines of "Iran is leading the insurgency in Iraq" or a variation of that):
Iraq’s neighbors influence, and are influenced by, events within Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq’s internal sectarian dynamics.

Nonetheless, Iranian lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants clearly intensifies the conflict in Iraq. Syria continues to provide safehaven for expatriate Iraqi Bathists and to take less than adequate measures to stop the flow of foreign jihadists into Iraq. (Emphasis in the original NIE)
What this means is that the insurgency is homegrown, sectarian based and that outside players are not the main foot soldiers of the insurgency.
So the next time some wingnut tells you Iran is responsible for the "insurgency" in Iraq (which is actually a national struggle for occupation-removal, at least insofar as it pertains to the Americans there), you'll have plenty of verbal ammo.

You can say: "No, Iran is not leading the insurgency. Iran is just one of many powers filling the power vacuum that the USA created by overthrowing Saddam Hussein and disbanding his army, without being able to provide an acceptable level of security in the country."

If you wish to make your wingnut angry, you may continue: "Rhetoric excluded, the USA has never given any indication that it wished to provide security in Iraq; on the contrary." Then mention that the death squads ripping Iraq apart were established, trained, funded and motivated by the Pentagon. That should be enough for one session.

But when your wingnut returns, you can mention that the NIE leaves out some fairly important information, so it doesn't exactly tell the truth either. Lying by omission is a bit tougher to spot, of course, but we have expert assistance here:
Countries in the region have taken advantage of the civil war that is raging in Iraq by backing a side that is ideologically in line with their own interests. So Iran is backing some Shia groups and Syria is backing some of the Sunni groups.

What the report appears to be missing, however, is any reference to Saudi Arabia and their role in backing some of the Sunni groups, as well as Pakistan, backing anyone with cash to buy weapons.

I find that remarkable. What else I find incredibly disturbing is that there appears to be no discussions of context, for example, that the US is backing Shia groups as well and backing the Shia government now in control of Iraq.
Quite remarkable. Incredibly disturbing indeed. But hardly surprising.
So two US allies and the US itself even, do not appear in the report as providing the same material and financial support to the various groups on the ground in Iraq as Syria and Iran.
I disagree with Larisa a bit here because as far as I can tell, the US is putting far more -- and far more advanced -- killing equipment in Iraq than the Iranians or the Syrians are. So I don't think it's entirely accurate to say they are doing the same thing. But it's a minor quibble. (My emphasis now.)
I would wager that is the part that is still classified. Regardless of all the players, the obvious thing to take away from this is that the White House needs to locate a new talking point. Having failed to prove WMD program in Iran, the administration adopted a new version of reality whereby US soldiers were being killed by Iranians or by Shia supported by Iranians.
Right. And we're seeing this all over the place, to the extent that even a cold blogger couldn't help but notice.
That, however, is a very simplified and distorted view of the situation as we can clearly see. The US is backing Shia who happen to be running death squads against other Shia.
Exactly. And where did the death squads come from? You won't find anything about that in the NIE either, no matter how hard you look.
The Saudis are arming Sunnis and the Syrians are giving them a safehaven. Pakistan is selling weapons and providing other types of support to both sides. Iran, while entering the fight - as it were - is doing what everyone else is doing, taking a side in a sectarian war.
As it were.
Incidentally, Iran and the US appear to be supporting the same side of the fight. Why is that?
Well, that's the big question, isn't it? And if they are supporting the same side, which they appear to be doing, then why are Americans so up in arms about Iraq receiving assistance from Iran?

Because it's not about the assistance at all, is it?

I think it might have more to do with the Iranian Oil Bourse.

In any case, the omissions pointed out by Larisa, and the transparently obvious motive behind them, bode poorly for the future of Iran, needless to say.

And as for the future of Iraq, I couldn't help wondering what to make of this (and again the emphasis is in the original NIE):
A number of identifiable internal security and political triggering events, including sustained mass sectarian killings, assassination of major religious and political leaders, and a complete Sunni defection from the government have the potential to convulse severely Iraq's security environment. Should these events take place, they could spark an abrupt increase in communal and insurgent violence and shift Iraq's trajectory from gradual decline to rapid deterioration and grave humanitarian, political, and security consequences. Three prospective security paths might then emerge:

Chaos Leading to Partition. With a rapid deterioration in the capacity of Iraq's central government to function, security services and other aspects of sovereignty would collapse. Resulting widespread fighting could produce de facto partition, dividing Iraq into three mutually antagonistic parts. Collapse of this magnitude would generate fierce violence for at least several years, ranging well beyond the time frame of this estimate, before settling into a partially stable end-state.

Emergence of a Shia Strongman. Instead of a disintegrating central government producing partition, a security implosion could lead Iraq's potentially most powerful group, the Shia, to assert its latent strength.

Anarchic Fragmentation of Power. The emergence of a checkered pattern of local control would present the greatest potential for instability, mixing extreme ethno-sectarian violence with debilitating intra-group clashes.
When I read this passage I couldn't help but wonder whether it contains the plan for the future of Iraq, I couldn't help but think of Admiral Fallon's statements about how we need a new and different approach and how we may have to lower our expectations, and I couldn't shake the notion that his new and different approach might consist primarily -- if not entirely -- of lowering our expectations.

When Iraq gets a lot worse -- in another twenty minutes or so, perhaps -- one of the three scenarios outlined above might start to look good to certain people, and I don't think it would hurt much to speculate on which one our so-called leaders might prefer.

Clearly we won't see Bush allowing any strongmen to emerge, so which of the other two options is it gonna be?

All things considered, I think we may need to lower our expectations quite considerably.

But what are those expectations? We've always been told that winning is the only option and we must succeed because we cannot afford to be defeated and that's why we have to throw everything we've got (except the children of the elite politicians and their elite supporters) into a generational war against ... what? Against a tactic?

What are our expectations? What makes it worthwhile? How can we tell when we've won?

Liz Cheney's demented drivel in the Washington Post gives no clue; it only begs you to sacrifice (your kids).
No force on Earth -- especially not an army of terrorists and insurgents -- can defeat our soldiers militarily. American troops will win if we show even one-tenth the courage here at home that they show every day on the battlefield. And by the way, you cannot wish failure on our soldiers' mission and claim, at the same time, to be supporting the troops. It just doesn't compute.
America deserves better. It's time for everyone -- Republicans and Democrats -- to stop trying to find ways for America to quit. Victory is the only option.
And so on...

But the former professional lesbian, who is now unmarried and pregnant, doesn't tell us what her father would consider success. This is quite possibly because she knows he rode to power on a hypocritical "family values" platform including a very hateful anti-gay plank, and his credibility with the American public is not what it once was.

But it could be for a simpler and better reason: Nobody in her family wants us to know what they really want.

And no big-media journalist is about to ask them, apparently.

So it's up to us, humble bloggers, to ask the important questions, like:

What should our expectations be?

What would make all the sacrifice worthwhile?

And how can we tell when we've won?

What if ... the big oil companies get the oil law signed and sealed, the USA pledges to "defend Iraq" (i.e. commits itself to enforce that law), Halliburton gets billions and billions more in no-bid (and no-deliver) contracts, and Cheney continues to rake in his share of the loot, until he walks away without ever having to answer for his crimes against America, not to mention his crimes against Humanity?

That might be considered a successful outcome for the Cheney family.

But then again it might not. They might also require a nuclear and conventional attack against Iran, a regime change in Syria, a hefty retirement package, and more. But at least we're probably on the right track.