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Intel Report on Iraq Brings Different Interpretations


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.



And I'm Robert Siegel.

The new assessment by the nation's combined intelligence services paints a grim picture of the state of Iraq today, and the challenges the U.S. faces there. The report of the 16 agencies - the report's known as the National Intelligence Estimate - also says Iraqi forces there will need substantial help for some time to come. The White House insists the documents supports its plan of adding troops in Iraq. We'll talk about that and the debate in Congress with our political observers in just a few minutes.

First, NPR's Don Gonyea reports from the White House.

DON GONYEA: The report is classified, but portions of it made public today, described Iraq's growing sectarian polarization - the persistent weakness of Iraqi Security Forces, and an increased in insurgent violence and political extremism. It goes on to say that unless there is progress in reversing these trends in the next year or year and a half, the deterioration of overall security will continue, producing more scenes like the very bloody and violent period of the latter part of last year.

At the White House, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said the report should not cast doubts on the president's plan to raise troop levels.


Mr. STEPHEN HADLEY (National Security Adviser): But I would say explains why the president concluded that a new approach, a new strategy, was required, explains a number of the elements of that strategy and generally supports it. That is to say that the policy is design to deal with the challenges that are reflected in this intelligence.

GONYEA: And Hadley warned that Iraqi security forces would not survived a withdrawal of U.S. forces resulting in a breakdown of order, massive civilian casualties and population displacement. And he said al-Qaida would attempt to use parts of the country as a base from which it would launch attacks both in and outside Iraq. Hadley was questioned about the report's use of the term civil war, a description the White House continues to reject. The intelligence estimates says the term civil war does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict, but that it is an accurate description of some elements of the war.

Here's Hadley responding.

Mr. HADLEY: The intelligence community judges the term civil war does not adequately capture the complexities of the conflict in Iraq. And what we're doing is saying if you're going to run a policy and if you're going to explain to the American people, we need to get across the complexities of the situation we face in Iraq and what is our strategy to deal with that.

GONYEA: But if the White House still rejects the term, the American public does not. An LA Times/Bloomberg news poll two weeks ago shows that nearly seven in 10 considered the current situation in Iraq a civil war. Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi said today the report makes clear that more U.S. troops are not the answer. She says it's up to Iraqi leaders to find political and diplomatic means to end the violence.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid said he saw no case for the president's buildup in today's intelligence report. Next week, the U.S. Senate is expected to consider resolutions opposing the troop increase, but debates starting Monday, that's the same day the president will be asking Congress for another $100 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan in this fiscal year and another $145 billion for next year.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.