4,362. 1/15/2003

“The [National Intelligence Council’s] thirty-eight page report [published in January 2003], entitled ‘Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq,’ chronicled a long list of potential problems. …The key judgments of the report are the following: ‘The building of an Iraqi democracy would be a long, difficult and probably turbulent process with potential for backsliding into Iraq’s tradition of authoritarianism. Iraqi political culture does not foster liberalism or democracy. …The principal positive elements in any effort at democratization would be the current relative weakness of political Islam in Iraq and the contributions that could be made by 4 million Iraqi exiles. Iraq would be unlikely to split apart, but a post-Saddam authority would face a deeply divided society with a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so. Sunni Arabs would face possible loss of their longstanding privileged position, while Shia would seek power commensurate with their majority status. Kurds could try to take advantage of Saddam’s departure by seizing some of the large northern oil fields, a move that would elicit forceful responses from Sunni Arabs and from Turkey. …Iraq’s large petroleum resources, its greatest asset, would make economic reconstruction less difficult than political transformation. Iraq’s economic options would remain few and narrow without forgiveness of debt, a reduction in reparations from the previous Persian Gulf war or something akin to a Marshall plan. If they remained relatively unscathed and any administrative issues involving organization of Iraq’s oil industry were resolved, it would be possible to increase oil production in three months from 2.4 million barrels per day to 3.1 million barrels…The foreign and security policies of a new Iraqi government necessarily would defer heavily in the near term to the interests of the United States, United Nations or an international coalition. But it would also reflect many continuing Iraqi perceptions. Unless guaranteed a security umbrella against its strategic rivals, Iraq’s interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction would eventually revive. A new Iraqi government would have little interest in supporting terrorism, although strong Iraqi support for the Palestinians would continue. If Baghdad were unable to exert control over the Iraqi countryside, Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups could operate from remote areas.’ ” [The 15th of the month used for date sorting purposes only.]

 – Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II, Pages 640-641

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