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US intelligence report projects deteriorating situation in Iraq

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As Congress prepares to debate President Bush's decision to send 21,000 extra troops to Iraq, a new National Intelligence Estimate on the conflict presented to the president Thursday describes "an increasingly perilous situation in which the United States has little control and there is a strong possibility of further deterioration." The Washington Post reports that the document projects possible developments over the next 18 months.

The document emphasizes that although Al Qaeda activities in Iraq remain a problem, they have been surpassed by Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence as the primary source of conflict and the most immediate threat to US goals. Iran, which the administration has charged with supplying and directing Iraqi extremists, is mentioned but is not a focus.

Taking into account criticism that past NIE have glassed over criticism from intelligence sources, the Post reports that this Estimate contains several dissents that "are prominently displayed so that policy makers understand any disagreements within the intelligence community."

The Associated Press reports that the NIE casts doubts over whether current Iraqi leaders can stabilize the sectarian violence in the country, stop corruption and establish effective national institutions.

TPM Muckraker.com, a political investigation site, reports that there is some confusion over whether or not the report will be released to the public. During questioning of US Director of National Intelligence (DNI) nominee Mike McConnell Thursday, Senator Dianne Feinstein said she expected the DNI to release the estimate to Congress Friday. But when a TPM Muckraker reporter called the DNI office, he was told that a copy of the NIE would not be released to the public.

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