Report: White House ignored CIA on Iraq chaos

A review by former intelligence analysts concludes that the Bush administration “apparently paid little or no attention” to pre-war CIA assessments warning of major cultural and political obstacles to stability in post-war Iraq. The unclassified report, completed in July 2004, now appears publicly for the first time in the quarterly journal Studies in Intelligence, published by the Center for the Study of Intelligence, an independent body within the CIA.

The review was conducted by a team led by Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy director of central intelligence, working under contract for the CIA. Kerr’s review did not describe the findings in detail. But the New York Times first reported last year that two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 had predicted that a US-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict. Those reports were by the National Intelligence Council, the high-level group responsible for producing the government’s most authoritative intelligence assessments.

Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the CIA. and other intelligence agencies have been notably more pessimistic than the White House and Pentagon on prospects for stability in Iraq. In the summer of 2004, press accounts about those reports so angered some Republicans that they accused the agency of trying to undermine President Bush.

The new review is one of three conducted by Kerr and his team, but it is the only one that was unclassified. It described as “seriously flawed, misleading and even wrong” most of the conclusions reached by the CIA. before the invasion about Saddam Hussein’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.

However, Kerr offered praise for pre-war intelligence reports on other issues, saying that they “accurately addressed such topics as how the war would develop and how Iraqi forces would or would not fight.”

Kerr also praised what he called perceptive analysis by intelligence agencies on the issue of ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda. The agency has clashed with the White House by asserting that there were no substantive links.

Kerr said the agency had also accurately “calculated the impact of the war on oil markets” and “accurately forecast the reactions of the ethnic and tribal factions in Iraq.”

He credited what he called “strong regional and country expertise developed over time” within US intelligence agencies, as opposed to what he said had been heavy reliance on “technical analysis” for what proved to be misleading or inaccurate information about Iraq’s weapons programs. (NYT, Oct. 13 via TruthOut)

See our last post on Iraq.