Failure in Iraq Would Affect Region, World, Intel Officials Say
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 16, 2006 Failure of the coalition and Iraqi government to create a unified, peaceful Iraq would be catastrophic for that country and the region, and would embolden terrorists throughout the world, the directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency said here yesterday.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, and Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the DIA, said that the coalition presence in Iraq is what’s keeping the country together, and an early withdrawal would cause a significant rise in violence.
“We are all acutely aware that Iraq today is far from peaceful,” Hayden said during his testimony. “Let me say that no single narrative is sufficient to explain all the violence we see in Iraq today. There remains in Iraq today an active insurgency. There remains in Iraq today a broad and vicious al Qaeda offensive targeting us and innocent Iraqis. In Iraq today there is criminality and lawlessness on a broad scale. In Iraq today there are rival militias competing for power.”
The conflict in Iraq has shifted to become increasingly a sectarian struggle for power, Maples said. The perception of unchecked violence in Iraq has created an environment of fear and divisiveness, which empowers militias and decreases confidence in government forces, he said.
The only way to deal with the problem of sectarian violence is for the Iraqi government to unite and create a non-sectarian security force and work on national reconciliation, both generals agreed.
“I believe that, in fact, the parties have to be brought together and it has to be a political approach,” Maples said. “And the government of Iraq has to be in the lead in doing that.”
Enabling Iraq’s leaders to be successful is one responsibility of the coalition, Maples said, but the coalition must also be forceful with the government and make its expectations known. Hayden pointed out that the new Iraqi leaders face a complex challenge, as they are all being asked to overcome their personal histories and work together to reach compromises.
“It's going to require, as General Maples suggests, all the tools we have to motivate them to make decisions that are clearly in their best interest for the long term,” Hayden said.
The situation in Iraq is grave, and al Qaeda has capitalized on the sectarian environment to increase its attacks, but there are still opportunities for success, the generals both said. An overwhelming majority of Iraqis want to live in peace, Hayden said, and there have been positive improvements recently.
The recent verdict against Saddam Hussein, government efforts to move along the de-Baathification process, increased cooperation between Sunni tribes and the Anbar government, and arrest warrants for Ministry of Interior personnel accused of abuses are all signs of progress, Maples said. The Iraqi security forces also continue to grow and develop capability, he said.
Despite the differences that still separate them, the different factions of Iraqi society did work together to create a constitution that provides the structure for them to settle their differences, Hayden noted. Iraqi leaders from all factions need to cooperate and fill out the government to fulfill the intent of that document, he said.
Although ultimately, victory in Iraq will have an Iraqi face, not an American face, the coalition presence is still vital right now to ensure stability, the generals said. Withdrawing U.S. troops now would only cause a rise in violence and embolden terrorists throughout the region, they said.
“Failure in Iraq -- failure to create a viable Iraqi state -- I think, would embolden the worst of our enemies, certainly al Qaeda,” Hayden said. “It would provide them with a safe haven rivaling the one they had in Afghanistan prior to October of 2001. I think it would also embolden other adversaries in the region, particularly Iran, whom I would suggest to you right now, not totally warranted, seems to be conducting a foreign policy with a feeling of almost dangerous triumphalism. And I think that would make that even worse.”