Bush failed to plan for after war, report says

A deeply pessimistic US intelligence assessment of the situation in Iraq, warning of possible civil war, has cast further doubts over the Bush administration's attempt to rebuild the country, and gave the Democratic challenger John Kerry a new opportunity to move the Iraq crisis to the centre of the Presidential election battle.

In a speech to the National Guard Association in Las Vegas yesterday, the Massachusetts senator avoided the controversy over charges that the President shirked his duties during his service in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to 1973.

Instead, Mr Kerry accused George Bush of "playing politics with national security" over Iraq, of glossing over the problems there and "living in a fantasy world of spin". He lambasted the White House for the lack of prewar planning which was now forcing National Guardsmen and reservists to serve excessively long tours of duty there, in what amounted to a backdoor draft.

The acute difficulties in Iraq are highlighted in the National Intelligence Estimate, drawn up in July and representing the distilled wisdom of the entire US intelligence community.

It sketches out three scenarios for Iraq. The grimmest is a descent into civil war; the second is understood to be a continuation of the current disorder. Even the most favourable of the three holds out no better prospect than a precarious stability, under constant threat.

The conclusions of the NIE, first reported by The New York Times yesterday, contrast sharply with the doggedly upbeat tone of Mr Bush on the campaign trail. At every turn, the President insists Iraq is firmly on the road to peace and democracy, deriding Mr Kerry for vacillation and "flip-flopping" on the issue.

Such intelligence studies have a chequered history - not least the previous NIE on Iraq in October 2002, when it grossly exaggerated the weapons threat posed by Saddam Hussein. But this new assessment reflects the view of most nonpartisan Iraq specialists here, that the insurgency is becoming ever more sophisticated and more dangerous. The view is widespread that the war in Iraq is politically, if not militarily, close to unwinnable for the US.

"Is there a threat of civil war? - Yes," Sean McCormick, the National Security Council spokesman admitted to reporters yesterday. But, he argued, many of the worst scenarios previously predicted for Iraq, including famine and civil war, had not come to pass.

The bleak prognosis by US intelligence comes days after the administration asked Congress to approve a shift of $3.6bn (£2bn) of the $18bn earmarked for reconstruction in Iraq into short-term spending, to speed the training Iraqi defence forces, boost security and protect the country's oil industry.

Even Republicans on Capitol Hill are enraged at how less than $1bn of the promised $18bn has been spent. Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, described the delays as "exasperating". Nebraska's Republican senator, Chuck Hagel, was even blunter. "It's beyond pitiful, it's beyond embarrassing, it is now in the zone of dangerous," he said.

More fundamentally, the re-allocation of funds is being seen as a tacit admission by the administration that many of its long-term ambitions for Iraq, so dear to the neo-conservatives who argued most strongly for the 2003 invasion, are now a dead letter.

Thus far - despite Mr Kerry's fierce criticism, not to mention the growing chaos and bloodshed on the ground - Iraq has been a peripheral issue in the campaign. To the frustration of Democrats, Mr Bush has succeeded in depicting Iraq as just a segment of the "war on terror", an area where he scores far better in opinion polls than his Democratic opponent.

At the Republican convention in New York, the turmoil was barely mentioned. Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, continues to make speeches implying Saddam had links with al-Qa'ida, and by extension with the 11 September terror attacks.

But Democrats are determined to turn the tactic against Mr Bush. "The President has frequently described Iraq as the central front in the war on terror," said Senator Joe Biden, senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and widely tipped as a possible Secretary of State should Mr Kerry win on 2 November. "By that measure the war on terror is in trouble."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor