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NIE Report: Iraq Not Likely to Be Stable by 2008

A U.S. soldier from the 5-20 Infantry Division cleans his rifle on the ramp of his Striker fighting vehicle as he waits for mission orders in Baghdad.

The situation in Iraq is very bad and getting worse. That's the judgment of a new National Intelligence Estimate that represents the views of all 16 U.S. spy agencies. The report also says that Iraqi leaders will be "hard pressed" to stabilize the country by the middle of 2008.

The White House says the report's findings are further proof that President Bush is right to change his strategy and put more U.S. troops on the ground there.

At a White House briefing, National Security Adviser Steven Hadley said that while this NIE is a new document, the intelligence behind it has been consistent for months. And Hadley insisted the intelligence has been informing the president's recent decisions.

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Hadley pointed to the bit of the estimate that deals with a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The report judges that a rapid withdrawal could lead to horrific consequences, from massive civilian casualties to a stronger al-Qaida presence in Anbar province.

But as Democratic leaders have been quick to note, the report, at least the portion that has been made public, does not examine other options, such as a gradual, phased withdrawal. Nor does it weigh the potential impact of sending in thousands more troops, as the president is urging.

Also prompting questions is the NIE's judgment on whether Iraq is in a state of "civil war"-- a term the Bush administration has avoided using. What the report judges, in effect, is that the situation in Iraq is worse than a civil war. While the term "civil war" accurately describes some elements of the conflict in Iraq, the report says, it doesn't "adequately capture the complexity."

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