- By The Associated Press
Friday, February 2, 2007
(02-02) 12:10 PST , (AP) --
Main findings of the declassified portion of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq:
_ Growing polarization of Iraqi society, weak security forces and a weak government are driving violence and political extremism.
_ If new plans for Iraq don't work over the coming year to 18 months, security in Iraq will continue to deteriorate as in the second half of 2006.
_ Even if the violence lessens, Iraqi leaders will be hard-pressed to stabilize the country by mid-2008.
_ Iraq faces "daunting" challenges driven by Shiite insecurity after years of Sunni domination, Sunni unwillingness to accept minority status, divided leaders who can't control the groups they represent, a Kurdish movement toward autonomy, an ineffective Iraqi army, extremist groups inside and outside Iraq and problems with refugees.
_ The term "civil war" accurately describes key aspects of the conflict in Iraq but doesn't encompass all of its complexities.
_ American and international forces play a key role in the country, and the Iraqi army probably wouldn't survive a rapid U.S. withdrawal.
_ Political developments — particularly Sunni acceptance of the current government, concessions from the Shiites and the Kurds, and efforts to reduce violence in neighborhoods — could help calm the conflict. Having stronger Iraqi leaders would help this to happen.
_ Iraq's neighbors have some influence in the country and in some cases have intensified the conflict, but they don't play a major role because the sectarian divisions are firmly entrenched and driven by internal political forces.
_ Other Sunni Arab regimes in the region are reluctant to support the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government and are considering supporting Sunni groups in Iraq. Turkey wants a stable Iraq to keep a Turkish Kurdish terrorist group from finding safe haven in northern Iraq.
_ The security situation in Iraq could take a sharp turn for the worse if there is a political crisis such as sustained mass killings, a high-profile assassination or complete Sunni withdrawal from the government. If that happens, one of three scenarios might emerge: The central government could disintegrate and lead to a de facto partition of Iraq along sectarian lines, resulting in protracted violence; a Shiite strongman could emerge, or an anarchic pattern of local control could arise, leading to chaos and extreme violence.