New Intelligence Estimate Predicts Renewed Violence in Iraq

Cernig points to a McClatchy article on the findings of the almost-completed new NIE on Iraq:

McClatchy reports that the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is almost complete and that it ” 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,” directly contradicting John McCain’s claims in Tuesday’s debate that the Surge has been a success and victory has been attained.

That’s not a major surprise to anyone who follows events in Iraq without neocon rose-tinted glasses. Deep conflicts between the central government and Kurdish region, Awakening groups and Sadrists have all been put on a knife-edge by expectations for the upcoming provincial elections, which have been gerrymandered to keep the existing incumbents in the Green Zone in power. The Turks are looking down a gunbarrel at the Kurds and the Awakening is looking at losing its source of income – being paid not to be insurgents – while even the Green Zone elites are falling out among themselves over Maliki’s newfound Napoleon complex. The chances of Iraq lasting another year without another significant outbreak of violence are small to none.

All of those sources of conflict are outlined in the draft NIE, according to more than “a half-dozen officials” who spoke to McClatchy on condition of anonymity because NIE’s are very restricted circulation documents.

Contrary to John McCain’s claims that “we have succeeded in Iraq,” the McClatchy piece reports David Petraeus’s assessment as being more in line with the new NIE:

The findings of the intelligence estimate appear to be reflected in recent statements by Army Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, who has called the situation “fragile” and “reversible” and said he will never declare victory there.

Sen. McCain strenuously disagrees — odd, given the “unholy amount of revered hype” McCain regularly sends Gen. Petraeus’s way. Here is McCain talking to reporters in Michigan less than three months ago:

… McCain insisted that “we have succeeded” in Iraq. In fact, he said it multiple times: “I am happy to stand in front of you to tell you that this strategy has succeeded. It has succeeded. It has succeeded.”
[…]
OK, McCain probably misspoke again. He must have meant that he thinks Bush’s strategy is “succeeding,” not has “succeeded,” right?

Wrong. He’s now referring to Bush’s Iraq policy in the past tense, as if the war is over.

McCain added on the campaign bus: “I repeat my statement that we have succeeded in Iraq — not we are succeeding — we have succeeded in Iraq.”

Gotcha. It’s over. We won. The policy worked — not is working, but worked. Good to know.

Spencer Ackerman (h/t Cernig) tells us that Gen. Petraeus departs from the McCain dogma in a couple of other ways as well:

Throughout Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, the Republican nominee has wrapped himself in the mantle of U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, proclaiming himself the leading advocate of the former commanding general in Iraq who devised last year’s controversial troop surge. Yet during a talk Wednesday about Iraq at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington policy organization, Petraeus repeatedly made statements that bolstered the foreign-policy proposals of Sen. Barack Obama, McCain’s Democratic rival, or cut against McCain’s own lines.
[..]
Unbidden, Petraeus discussed whether his strategy in Iraq — protecting the population while cleaving apart the insurgency through reconciliation efforts to crush the remaining hard-core enemies — could also work in Afghanistan. The question has particular salience as Petraeus takes over U.S. Central Command, which will put him at the helm of all U.S. troops in the Middle East and South Asia, thereby giving him a large role in the Afghanistan war.

“Some of the concepts used in Iraq are transplantable [to Afghanistan] while others perhaps are not,” he said. “Every situation is unique.”

Petraeus pointed to efforts by Hamid Karzai’s government to negotiate a deal with the Taliban that would potentially bring some Taliban members back to power, saying that if they are “willing to reconcile,” it would be “a positive step.”

In saying that, Petraeus implicitly allied with U.S. Army Gen. David McKiernan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Last week, McKiernan rejected the idea of replicating the blend of counterinsurgency strategy employed in Iraq. “The word that I don’t use in Afghanistan is the word ’surge,’” McKiernan said, opting against recruiting Pashtun tribal fighters to supplement Afghan security forces against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. “There are countless other differences between Iraq and Afghanistan,” he added.

McCain, however, has argued that the Afghanistan war is ripe for a direct replication of Petraeus’ Iraq strategy of population-centric counterinsurgency. “Sen. Obama calls for more troops,” McCain said in the Sept. 26 debate, “but what he doesn’t understand, it’s got to be a new strategy, the same strategy that he condemned in Iraq. It’s going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.”

McCain qualified that statement in Tuesday’s debate, but clung to it while discussing Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Gen. Petraeus had a strategy,” McCain said, “the same strategy — very, very different, because of the conditions and the situation — but the same fundamental strategy that succeeded in Iraq. And that is to get the support of the people.”

Petraeus also came out unambiguously in his talk at Heritage for opening communications with America’s adversaries, a position McCain is attacking Obama for endorsing. Citing his Iraq experience, Petraeus said, “You have to talk to enemies.” He added that it was necessary to have a particular goal for discussion and to perform advance work to understand the motivations of his interlocutors.

All that was the subject of one of the most contentious tussles between McCain and Obama in the first presidential debate, with Obama contending that his intent to negotiate with foreign adversaries without “precondition” did not mean that he would neglect diplomatic “preparation.”

McCain, apparently perceiving an opportunity for attack, Tuesday again used Obama’s comments to attack his judgment. “Sen. Obama, without precondition, wants to sit down and negotiate with them, without preconditions,” McCain said, referring to Iran.

Yet Petraeus emphasized throughout his lecture that reaching out to insurgent groups — some “with our blood on their hands,” he said — was necessary to the ultimate goal of turning them against irreconcilable enemies like Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Petraeus favorably cited the example of one of his British deputies, who in a previous assignment had to negotiate with Martin McGuiness of the Irish Republican Army, responsible for killing some of the British commander’s troops. The British officer, Petraeus said, occasionally wanted to “reach across the table” and choke his former adversary but understood that such negotiations were key to ending a war.

Read more.

Via Memeorandum.

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