Prewar intelligence foretold Iraq upheaval
Seattle Times
By Walter Pincus
The Washington Post
May 20, 2007

WASHINGTON — Two intelligence assessments from January 2003 predicted that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and subsequent U.S. occupation of Iraq could lead to internal violence and provide a boost to Islamic extremists and terrorists, according to congressional sources and former intelligence officials familiar with the prewar studies.

The two assessments, titled "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq" and "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq," were produced by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) and will be a major part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's long-awaited Phase II report on prewar intelligence assessments about Iraq. The assessments were delivered to the White House and to congressional intelligence committees before the war started.

The committee chairman, Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and the vice chairman, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., announced this month that the panel had asked Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to declassify the report for public release. Congressional sources said the two NIC assessments are to be declassified and would be part of a portion of the Phase II report that could be released this month.

The assessment on post-Saddam Iraq included judgments that, while Iraq was unlikely to split apart, there was a significant chance that domestic groups would fight one another and that ex-regime military elements could merge with terrorist groups to battle any new government. It even talked of guerrilla warfare, according to congressional sources and former intelligence officials.

The second NIC assessment discussed "political Islam being boosted and the war being exploited by terrorists and extremists elsewhere in the region," one former senior analyst said. It also suggested that fear of U.S. military dominance and occupation of a Middle East country, one sacred to Islam, would attract foreign Islamic fighters to the area.

A former senior intelligence official said he was told by one CIA briefer after the NIC papers were given to top government officials that one ranking Defense Department official had said they were "too negative" and that the papers "did not see the possibilities" Saddam's removal would present.

In his book, "At the Center of the Storm," former CIA Director George Tenet discussed the NIC assessments as well as prewar intelligence analyses his agency prepared on the same issues. While Tenet admits the CIA expected Shiites in southern Iraq, "long oppressed by Saddam, to open their arms to anyone who removed him," he said agency analysts were "not among those who confidently expected coalition forces to be greeted as liberators."

Tenet writes that the initial good feeling among most Iraqis that Saddam was out of power "would last for only a short time before old rivalries and ancient ethnic tensions resurfaced." The former intelligence analyst said such views also reflected the views in the NIC paper on post-Saddam Iraq.

The NIC assessments also projected the view that a long-term Western military occupation would be widely unacceptable, particularly to the Iraqi military. It also said Iraqis would wait and see whether the new governing authority, whether foreign or Iraqi, would provide security and basic services such as electricity.

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