In a move sure to raise even more questions about the decision to go to war with Iraq, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence will on Friday release selected portions of pre-war intelligence in which the CIA warned the administration of the risk and consequences of a conflict in the Middle East.
Among other things, the 40-page Senate report reveals that two intelligence assessments before the war accurately predicted that toppling Saddam could lead to a dangerous period of internal violence and provide a boost to terrorists. But those warnings were seemingly ignored.
In January 2003, two months before the invasion, the intelligence community's think tank — the National Intelligence Council — issued an assessment warning that after Saddam was toppled, there was “a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other and that rogue Saddam loyalists would wage guerilla warfare either by themselves or in alliance with terrorists.”
It also warned that “many angry young recruits” would fuel the rank of Islamic extremists and "Iraqi political culture is so embued with mores (opposed) to the democratic experience … that it may resist the most rigorous and prolonged democratic tutorials."
None of those warnings were reflected in the administration's predictions about the war.
In fact, Vice President Cheney stated the day before the war, “Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.”
A second assessment weeks before the invasion warned that the war also could be “exploited by terrorists and extremists outside Iraq.”
The same assessment added, “Iraqi patience with an extended U.S. presence after an overwhelming victory would be short,” and said “humanitarian conditions in many parts of Iraq would probably not understand that the Coalition wartime logistic pipeline would require time to reorient its mission to humanitarian aid.”
Both assessments were given to the White House and to congressional intelligence committees.
Even more warnings
And according to the Former CIA Director George Tenet’s new book, “At the Center of the Storm,” the reports to be released Friday were not the only ones out there.
One of Tenet’s clearest arguments regarding the administration's dismissal of all but the rosiest assessments of post-war Iraq comes in his description of a White House meeting in September 2002. There, a briefing book on the Iraq war was laid out for policy makers.
“Near the back of the book, Tab 'P', was a paper the CIA analysts had prepared three weeks earlier,” Tenet writes. “Dated August 13, 2002, it was titled, ‘The Perfect Storm: Planning for the Negative Consequences of Invading Iraq.’ It provided worse case scenarios:
“The United States will face negative consequences with Iraq, the region and beyond which would include:
- Anarchy and the territorial breakup of Iraq;
- Region-threatening instability in key Arab states;
- A surge of global terrorism against US interests fueled by (militant) Islamism;
- Major oil supply disruptions and severe strains in the Atlantic Alliance.”
“These should have been very sobering reports,” says Michael O’Hanlon, military analyst at the Brookings Institution. “The administration should have taken them very serious in preparing plans for a difficult post-Saddam period. And yet the administration did not do so.”
William Harlow, part of Tenet’s senior intelligence staff and co-author with Tenet on his book, added: “Although the intelligence got the WMD case in Iraq wrong, it got the dangers of a post-invasion Iraq quite right. They raised serious questions about what would face U.S. troops in a post invasion Iraq. The intelligence laid out a number of issues of concern. It’s unclear if administration officials paid any attention to those concerns.”
It is likely that Democrats and Republicans on the Hill will question how the administration could have predicted a short, easy war given these warnings and why it has taken more four years for them to surface.