13 October 2005

Bush Administration ignored pre-war assessments

Report Says White House Ignored CIA on Iraq Chaos... By Douglas Jehl

A review by former intelligence officers has concluded that the Bush administration "apparently paid little or no attention" to prewar assessments by the Central Intelligence Agency that warned of major cultural and political obstacles to stability in postwar Iraq.

The report appeared publicly for the first time this week in Studies in Intelligence, a quarterly journal. The journal is published by the Center for the Study of Intelligence, which is part of the C.I.A. but operates independently.

The review was conducted by a team led by Richard J. Kerr, a former deputy director of central intelligence. It acknowledged the deep failures in the agency's prewar assessments of Iraq's weapons programs but said "the analysis was right" on cultural and political issues related to postwar Iraq.

Two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 had predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.

Those reports were by the National Intelligence Council, the highlevel group responsible for producing the government's most authoritative intelligence assessments.

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

The Senate Intelligence Committee was to have addressed the issue as part of a second phase of its inquiry that began with a study of the intelligence on Iraq's weapons program. But the Republican-led committee has shown no sign of producing a report.

The review was one of three conducted by Mr. 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 C.I.A. before the invasion of Iraq about President Saddam Hussein's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.

But Mr. Kerr offered praise for prewar intelligence reports on issues other than Iraq's weapons programs, saying that they "accurately addressed such topics as how the war would develop and how Iraqi forces would or would not fight."

Mr. Kerr also praised what he called perceptive analysis by intelligence agencies on the issue of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, a subject on which the agency clashed with the White House by concluding that there were no substantive links.

Mr. 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."

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