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April 02, 2008

Does the New Iraq "NIE" Even Matter?
Posted by Adam Blickstein

The updated Iraq NIE (or whatever they are calling) released to Congress yesterday analyzes only the subsequent six months after the previous update to the Iraq NIE, which was completed and released in August 2007. While it is deplorable that there is going to be no formal public document describing the findings—as has been the tradition in the past—due to DNI McConnel’s absurd declaration that “All future NIEs will not have unclassified key judgments”, it almost doesn’t matter, for a couple of reasons.

First, the report only examines the months ending in January 2008.  While the findings might highlight the reduction in violence from August 2007—when Sadr acquiesced to a ceasefire— onwards, the updated NIE would not include any examination of the well-documented events last month.  March turned out to be the deadliest month in Iraq since the August's NIE, with attacks against Americans reaching their highest level since the surge reached its peak last June. The upheaval that occurred in Basra and Baghdad, a success for Sadr’s forces and an embarrassment, from both an operational and perception perspective, for Maliki and tangentially America, makes the findings in the updated NIE delivered to Congress yesterday moot.  From constant missile barrages into the Green Zone, the rampant diffusion of some in the Iraqi Security Forces into the Mahdi Army and  partial refusal on their part to fully engage in the militias, and the end to hostilities as negotiated in the Iranian holy city of Qom by Iranian Gen. Qassem Suleimani, head of the Quds Brigade who’s on the U.S. and U.N. terrorist watch list, too much has happened in Iraq in the past few weeks from an intelligence and military viewpoint to make this version of the NIE temporal and relevant  While we should still be presented with a declassified version of this version of the report, March rendered the document anachronistic in terms of truly being analytically useful.


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