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Context of 'January 2003: CIA Analyst Warns in Paper That Establishing Democracy in Iraq Will Not Be Easy; Ethnic and Religious Divisions May Fuel Violence'

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Paul Pillar.Paul Pillar. [Source: PBS]Deputy Director of the CIA John McLaughlin asks veteran CIA analyst Paul Pillar to prepare a declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. A public version of the document was requested by senators Bob Graham and Carl Levin (see October 2, 2002) who want the dissenting opinions expressed in the document to be aired in public. Pillar is told to use a white paper that had been commissioned by the White House in May as his starting point, and then update it with material from the NIE. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 138-139]

Entity Tags: Paul R. Pillar, John E. McLaughlin

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Senior CIA analyst Paul Pillar produces a high-level report on the potential challenges US forces will experience in post-Hussein Iraq. Pillar’s paper argues that imposing democracy on Iraq will not be easy. He warns that the country may fracture along ethnic and religious lines and explode into violence. He also says that the US will not be able to finance reconstruction with Iraq’s oil revenue. The report is sent to the office of CIA Director George Tenet and forwarded to the White House and Pentagon. An administration official tells him that his paper is “too negative.” “You guys just don’t see the possibilities,” Pillar later recalls the official saying. [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 198]

Entity Tags: Paul R. Pillar, US Department of Defense, George J. Tenet, White House

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

The New York Times reports on the recent issuance of a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq by the US intelligence community. It is the first NIE to be issued since before the invasion (see October 1, 2002). The report was leaked to the Times by unnamed government officials.
Civil War a Strong Possibility - The NIE’s findings are grim. Civil war is a strong possibility, the NIE finds. Even the best-case scenario is an Iraq whose political, economic, and national security stability is tenuous and fragile. One government official says of the report, “There’s a significant amount of pessimism.” This NIE was initiated by the National Intelligence Council under the aegis of then-CIA Director George Tenet, who has since resigned. Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin approved the final report. The NIE stands in contrast to recent pronouncements by White House officials, who have insisted that the situation in Iraq is improving daily.
Critics 'Pessimists and Hand-Wringers' - The day before the NIE was released, White House press secretary Scott McClellan called critics of the occupation “pessimists and hand-wringers” who are being “proven… wrong.” [New York Times, 9/16/2004]
White House Ignores NIE - The NIE was prepared in July 2004 and not circulated until August, indicating that the White House had little use for the document. “It was finished in July, and not circulated by the intelligence community until the end of August,” one senior administration official says. “That’s not exactly what you do with an urgent document.” [New York Times, 9/28/2004]
This NIE Closer to CIA's Own Assessments than Earlier Report - Senior CIA analyst Paul Pillar will later say that the agency’s own prewar assessments “foretold a long, difficult, and turbulent transition,” assessments more in line with the current NIE than with the 2002 estimate (see January 2003 and September 28, 2004). “It projected that a Marshall Plan-type effort would be required to restore the Iraqi economy, despite Iraq’s abundant oil resources. It forecast that in a deeply divided Iraqi society, with Sunnis resentful over the loss of their dominant position and Shi’ites seeking power commensurate with their majority status, there was a significant chance that the groups would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it. And it anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks—including by guerrilla warfare—unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity in the few weeks or months after the fall of Saddam” Hussein. The NIE, and the White House’s blase response to it (see September 21-23, 2004), will deepen the tension and distrust between the White House and the CIA. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 153, 244]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, John E. McLaughlin, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), National Intelligence Council, New York Times, Paul R. Pillar, Saddam Hussein

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

In an article published in Foreign Affairs magazine, former CIA senior analyst Paul Pillar says that prewar-intelligence was misused by the administration to support its case for war. Pillar, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, writes: “In the wake of the Iraq war, it has become clear that official intelligence analysis was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made.” The administration “went to war without requesting—and evidently without being influenced by—any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq.” According to Pillar, it was not until a year after the invasion that he first received a request for such an assessment. He also says that there was pressure on intelligence analysts to make their assessments conform to the administration’s policy, a claim that several others have made as well (see September 11, 2001-March 17, 2003; September 11, 2001-March 17, 2003). He describes a “poisonous atmosphere,” which “reinforced the disinclination within the intelligence community to challenge the consensus view about Iraqi WMD programs; any such challenge would have served merely to reaffirm the presumptions of the accusers.” Pillar also rejects the view that the administration went to war because of Iraq’s presumed ties to al-Qaeda. Rather the White House “hitch[ed] the Iraq expedition to the ‘war on terror’ and the threat the American public feared most, thereby capitalizing on the country’s militant post-9/11 mood.” Pillar suggests that the decision to go to war was instead driven by the idea that shaking up the Middle East would hasten the “spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region.” [CNN, 2/10/2006; Foreign Affairs, 3/2006]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Paul R. Pillar

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

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