Flawed Intelligence

by Lord William Rees-Mogg

Arnaud de Borchgrave, who is the UPI Editor-at-Large, is an extremely well connected and well-informed international journalist. When he says something, it pays to listen. His most recent dispatch follows visits he has made to intelligence sources in five European countries. These sources contradict the more positive view of Iraq that the United States, officials in Baghdad, and the British Government take for granted.

Arnaud’s bullet points are these:

  • The neo-con objectives for making Iraq a functioning democracy were always overly optimistic.
  • Iraqi security forces have not been trained to the level at which they can resist the insurgents.
  • The insurgency has grown from about 5,000 in the early months of the occupation to about 20,000 now.
  • To defeat the insurgency, the U.S. would need about 200,000 troops. “Short of that number, the insurgency will continue to gain momentum.” The U.S. will have to stay until about 2010.

Iraq has become a magnet for terrorists.

I put a good deal of confidence in Arnaud, who is a good journalist and a friend of mine. However, I put less confidence in his intelligence sources. All intelligence positions involve a good deal of guesswork, as we can now see from the original intelligence about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction.” It is more than possible that Arnaud has it right in correctly suggesting what his European intelligence sources are saying. It is equally possible that European intelligence is biased towards the European view of the Iraq war, and wants Europe to be proven correct. It is also likely that U.S. intelligence is overly confident. President Bush and Senator Kerry are obviously going to be at odds on this issue. They are, after all, fighting a Presidential election campaign.

However, it is prudent to base one’s expectations on the less favourable possibility.  At present, we should assume that the security situation in Iraq is continuing to deteriorate. In any case, that’s what it looks like from the current reports. What conclusion should we draw from this information?

Some Europeans believe that the alliance should pull out of Iraq. My conclusion is that there is no safe exit. If the United States and Britain withdraw, the consequences will be terrible. Islamic terrorism will have won its great victory and will be reinforced in every way. Iraq is an essential supplier of oil, at a time when the oil price has risen close to $50 a barrel.

If anti-Western insurgents regain Iraq, Saudi Arabia, an even larger supplier of oil, will be threatened. It will affect Russia and influence the policy of Iran. It will guarantee that Iran will go ahead with a nuclear weapons program.

There is no exit; and therefore, no alternative. The United States may have miscalculated, but neither the U.S., nor Britain, can afford to pull out now.

Leading Politcal Commentary and Insight

Leading political editor William Rees-Mogg is the former Editor-in-Chief for The Times of London and a member of the House of Lords. Lord Rees-Mogg has been credited with accurately forecasting glasnost and the fall of the Berlin Wall – as well as the 1987 crash. His superbly perceptive, startlingly well-informed, but often controversial insights can be found in the UK edition of The Fleet Street Letter and Strategic Investment in the US.