Saturday, February 03, 2007

The NIE on Iraq...

...should be called the "non-intelligence estimate".
Addressing the political issues in Iraq the Key Judgments are more news than intelligence-Threatswatch
Based upon the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, it can be interpreted with either defeatism or with surging forward. Funny how Mark Mazzetti of the NYTimes says as much in the first paragraph; yet says so in language that is clearly on the side of the pessimist camp:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 — The release on Friday of portions of a bleak new National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq’s future left the White House and its opponents vying over whether its findings buttressed their vastly different views about how to arrest the worsening sectarian chaos there.
The LATimes headline blurb is no better. Whereas the NYTimes labels the NIE report as "bleak", the LATimes says Iraq is "unraveling". While those assessments aren't any more false than seeing a glass half empty, they could just as well lead with headlines that accurately represent the glass as half full:
Contrary to the early interpretation of the report from some quarters it does not close the door on success. To wit:
… Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this Estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006. …
In other words a successful surge – or the broader idea that a political solution can only take root if there is a clamp-down on violence – will not be a waste of time or effort.-ThreatsWatch
I'm sure the rest of MSM takes a dim view of the NIE report as well; and as they always do, will place emphasis on whatever portions will undermine the Bush Administration; because a Bush defeat is more important to them than an American victory.

Does the NIE deserve so much reverence and veneration? I'd like to remind people of key judgments in the NIE report of October 2002:

Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction

We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade.

We judge that we are seeing only a portion of Iraq’s WMD efforts, owing to Baghdad’s vigorous denial and deception efforts. Revelations after the Gulf war starkly demonstrate the extensive efforts undertaken by Iraq to deny information. We lack specific information on many key aspects of Iraq’s WMD programs.

Since inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological weapons; in the view of most agencies, Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.

• Iraq’s growing ability to sell oil illicitly increases Baghdad’s capabilities to finance WMD programs; annual earnings in cash and goods have more than quadrupled, from $580 million in 1998 to about $3 billion this year.

• Iraq has largely rebuilt missile and biological weapons facilities damaged during Operation Desert Fox and has expanded its chemical and biological infrastructure under the cover of civilian production.

• Baghdad has exceeded UN range limits of 150 km with its ballistic missiles and is working with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which allow for a more lethal means to deliver biological and, less likely, chemical warfare agents.

• Although we assess that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them. Most agencies assess that Baghdad started reconstituting its nuclear program about the time that UNSCOM inspectors departed—December 1998.

How quickly Iraq will obtain its first nuclear weapon depends on when it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material.

• If Baghdad acquires sufficient fissile material from abroad it could make a nuclear weapon within several months to a year. {p.2}

• Without such material from abroad, Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until 2007 to 2009, owing to inexperience in building and operating centrifuge facilities to produce highly enriched uranium and challenges in procuring the necessary equipment and expertise.

–Most agencies believe that Saddam’s personal interest in and Iraq’s aggressive attempts to obtain high-strength aluminum tubes for centrifuge rotors—as well as Iraq’s attempts to acquire magnets, high-speed balancing machines, and machine tools—provide compelling evidence that Saddam is reconstituting a uranium enrichment effort for Baghdad’s nuclear weapons program. (DOE agrees that reconstitution of the nuclear program is underway but assesses that the tubes probably are not part of the program.)

–Iraq’s efforts to re-establish and enhance its cadre of weapons personnel as well as activities at several suspect nuclear sites further indicate that reconstitution is underway.

–All agencies agree that about 25,000 centrifuges based on tubes of the size Iraq is trying to acquire would be capable of producing approximately two weapons’ worth of highly enriched uranium per year.

• In a much less lively scenario, Baghdad could make enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by 2005 to 2007 if it obtains suitable centrifuge tubes this year and has all the other materials and technological expertise necessary to build production-scale uranium enrichment facilities.

We assess that Baghdad has begun renewed production of mustard, sarin, GF (cyclosarin), and VX; its capability probably is more limited now than it was at the time of the Gulf war, although VX production and agent storage life probably have been improved.

• An array of clandestine reporting reveals that Baghdad has procured covertly the types and quantities of chemicals and equipment sufficient to allow limited CW agent production hidden within Iraq’s legitimate chemical industry.

• Although we have little specific information on Iraq’s CW stockpile, Saddam probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons (MT) and possibly as much as 500 MT of CW agents—much of it added in the last year.

• The Iraqis have experience in manufacturing CW bombs, artillery rockets, and projectiles. We assess that that they possess CW bulk fills for SRBM warheads, including for a limited number of covertly stored Scuds, possibly a few with extended ranges.

We judge that all key aspects—R&D, production, and weaponization—of Iraq’s offensive BW program are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf war.

• We judge Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax, for delivery by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers, and covert operatives. {p.3}

–Chances are even that smallpox is part of Iraq’s offensive BW program.

–Baghdad probably has developed genetically engineered BW agents.

• Baghdad has established a large-scale, redundant, and concealed BW agent production capability.

–Baghdad has mobile facilities for producing bacterial and toxin BW agents; these facilities can evade detection and are highly survivable. Within three to six months * these units probably could produce an amount of agent equal to the total that Iraq produced in the years prior to the Gulf war.

* (Corrected per Errata sheet issued in October 2002)

Iraq maintains a small missile force and several development programs, including for a UAV probably intended to deliver biological warfare agent.

• Gaps in Iraqi accounting to UNSCOM suggest that Saddam retains a covert force of up to a few dozen Scud-variant SRBMs with ranges of 650 to 900 km.

• Iraq is deploying its new al-Samoud and Ababil-100 SRBMs, which are capable of flying beyond the UN-authorized 150-km range limit; Iraq has tested an al-Samoud variant beyond 150 km—perhaps as far as 300 km.

• Baghdad’s UAVs could threaten Iraq’s neighbors, US forces in the Persian Gulf, and if brought close to, or into, the United States, the US Homeland.

–An Iraqi UAV procurement network attempted to procure commercially available route planning software and an associated topographic database that would be able to support targeting of the United States, according to analysis of special intelligence.

–The Director, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, US Air Force, does not agree that Iraq is developing UAVs primarily intended to be delivery platforms for chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents. The small size of Iraq’s new UAV strongly suggests a primary role of reconnaissance, although CBW delivery is an inherent capability.

• Iraq is developing medium-range ballistic missile capabilities, largely through foreign assistance in building specialized facilities, including a test stand for engines more powerful than those in its current missile force.

We have low confidence in our ability to assess when Saddam would use WMD.

• Saddam could decide to use chemical and biological warfare (CBW) preemptively against US forces, friends, and allies in the region in an attempt to disrupt US war preparations and undermine the political will of the Coalition. {p.4}

• Saddam might use CBW after an initial advance into Iraqi territory, but early use of WMD could foreclose diplomatic options for stalling the US advance.

• He probably would use CBW when he perceived he irretrievably had lost control of the military and security situation, but we are unlikely to know when Saddam reaches that point.

• We judge that Saddam would be more likely to use chemical weapons than biological weapons on the battlefield.

• Saddam historically has maintained tight control over the use of WMD; however, he probably has provided contingency instructions to his commanders to use CBW in specific circumstances.

Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington a stronger cause for making war.

Iraq probably would attempt clandestine attacks against the US Homeland if Baghdad feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge. Such attacks—more likely with biological than chemical agents—probably would be carried out by special forces or intelligence operatives.

• The Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) probably has been, directed to conduct clandestine attacks against US and Allied interests in the Middle East in the event the United States takes action against Iraq. The IIS probably would be the primary means by which Iraq would attempt to conduct any CBW attacks on the US Homeland, although we have no specific intelligence information that Saddam’s regime has directed attacks against US territory.

Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al-Qa'ida—with worldwide reach and extensive terrorist infrastructure, and already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States—could perpetrate the type of terrorist attack that he would hope to conduct.

• In such circumstances, he might decide that the extreme step of assisting the Islamist terrorists in conducting a CBW attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him
If they were inaccurate back then, in 2002,.......???

Jules Crittenden does make a good point in noting the following:
In any case, the NIE is the kind of report that should offer some insight on where efforts need to be directed, issues that need to be addressed. It is not a strategy. But it is a report that, by design, should be worst-case and pessimistic.
Read his whole assessment. It is excellent.

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Blogger Curt said...

Great rundown on this NIE Word. As typical, our MSM is misrepresenting the report to put out the message they want displayed. Quagmire, civil war, defeat, and finally Bush wrong.

Saturday, February 03, 2007 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

An informative post as usual, Wordsmith. I'd like to know the statistics on how many readers the NYT's have lost, or viewers that CBS, NBC, ABC, etc., have lost. I suppose I could look them up.

I'm going to have to go take a nap. So sleepy I can barely keep eyes open.
I'll have to come back to read the article that you linked to... and I will. I promise!

Have a great day-and-a-half, which is what's remaining of the weekend! ;)

Saturday, February 03, 2007 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Simply Kimberly said...

Can someone please explain to me how the MSM can have such a soft spot for terrorists and the nations that support them and yet turn around and act as if President Bush were the Devil himself?

Anyone? Where is the logic in their pathology?

Saturday, February 03, 2007 5:35:00 PM  

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