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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 19:11 GMT 20:11 UK
US report predicts gloom in Iraq
US soldier investigates Baghdad house
The best Iraqis can hope for is tenuous stability, the report says
US officials have acknowledged the existence of a secret intelligence report on Iraq offering gloomy predictions for the country's future.

The report - a compilation of assessments by intelligence agencies - puts forward three possible scenarios in Iraq by the end of 2005.

They range from what the report calls tenuous stability to political fragmentation and civil war. It was prepared for President Bush before a recent escalation of violence.

The BBC's Nick Childs at the Pentagon says the report is at odds with the more upbeat public statements which continue to emerge from the Bush administration.

Many analysts in Washington are now raising doubts about whether it is realistic to plan for an election in Iraq in January, our correspondent says.

'Pessimism'

The 50-page report is the first intelligence estimate on Iraq since one on former leader Saddam Hussein's weapons programmes, completed nearly two years ago.

In the past there were many different scenarios that were possible, including the outbreak of civil war - it hasn't happened
Sean McCormack
National Security Council
The 2002 report, which was used by the Bush administration to help make its case for war, was highly criticised for not taking into account dissenting views from some agencies about the status of the weapons programmes.

The new report was initiated under former CIA director George Tenet, who left his post after attracting heavy criticism for failures of intelligence in the run-up to the 11 September attacks and before the Iraq war.

One unnamed government official who read it told the New York Times newspaper that it contained "a significant amount of pessimism" about Iraq's future.

But National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack told the newspaper the Iraqi people often defied predictions.

"In the past, including before the war to liberate Iraq, there were many different scenarios that were possible, including the outbreak of civil war," he said. "It hasn't happened."

However, our correspondent says the assessment is likely to provide new ammunition for Mr Bush's electoral opponent John Kerry.

Mr Kerry has already cast doubt on Iraq's ability to hold elections in January.

"I think it is very difficult to see today how you're going to distribute ballots in places like Falluja and Ramadi and Najaf and other parts of the country, without having established the security," he said on a radio talk show on Wednesday.


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