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CIA review faults prewar plans [kind of, sort of]


By John Diamond, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — A newly released report published by the CIA rebukes the Bush administration for not paying enough attention to prewar intelligence that predicted the factional rivalries now threatening to split Iraq.

Policymakers worried more about making the case for the war, particularly the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, than planning for the aftermath, the report says. The report was written by a team of four former CIA analysts led by former deputy CIA director Richard Kerr.

"In an ironic twist, the policy community was receptive to technical intelligence (the weapons program), where the analysis was wrong, but apparently paid little attention to intelligence on cultural and political issues (post-Saddam Iraq), where the analysis was right," they write.

White House spokesman Fred Jones said Tuesday that the administration considered many scenarios involving postwar instability in Iraq. The report's assertion "has been vehemently disputed," he said.

Then-CIA director George Tenet commissioned the report after the invasion of Iraq. The authors had access to highly classified intelligence data and produced three reports concerning Iraq intelligence.

Only the third has been released in declassified form. It is published in the current issue of Studies in Intelligence, a CIA quarterly written primarily for intelligence professionals. The report was finished in July 2004 just as Tenet was ending his tenure as CIA director.

The report determined that beyond the errors in assessing Iraqi weaponry, "intelligence produced prior to the war on a wide range of other issues accurately addressed such topics as how the war would develop and how Iraqi forces would or would not fight."

The intelligence "also provided perceptive analysis on Iraq's links to al-Qaeda; calculated the impact of the war on oil markets; and accurately forecast the reactions of ethnic and tribal factions in Iraq."

The postwar struggle pitting Sunni Arabs against Shiite and Kurdish factions has led some analysts, including Saud al-Faisal, foreign minister of neighboring Saudi Arabia, to conclude Iraq is at risk of splitting into three pieces.

Kerr's report agrees with other government reviews in concluding that prewar intelligence on Iraqi weapons was faulty. Costly U.S. spy satellites were of little help, providing "accurate information on relatively few critical issues."

Intelligence analysts, the report says, failed to question their assumptions that Iraq had maintained chemical and biological weapons and had reactivated nuclear weapons development. Doubts about the intelligence received little attention, "hastening the conversion of heavily qualified judgments into accepted fact."

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