Excerpts From the National Intelligence Estimate

The latest brouhaha is in regard to the leaked portion of National Intelligence Estimate that some people and news sources have used to prove that the current war in Iraq has made the US less safe.

To refute this point the Bush administration has declassified more of the report. CNN has a copy here. I read it and wanted to share some selections from it with you.

“We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

• The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

• Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq “jihad;” (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims—all of which jihadists exploit.

Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadistsÂ’ radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.”

And

“The jihadistsÂ’ greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution —an ultra-conservative interpretation of shariÂ’a-based governance spanning the Muslim world—is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadistsÂ’ propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.

• Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on
passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.

• Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.

If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit.”

And now for the two minute analysis. So what do we make of this. In short there are several things. Iraq is a key issue. The perception of the outcome there is very important. If the US and company are perceived to have lost this war then it is likely that it will serve as a tool to increase terrorism.

If we win, well then it appears that it will serve to reduce the number of terrorists that are being recruited into the fold.

That win is a combination of military and political solutions, ie the establishment of some sort of democratic society. However, it is not clear that this is something that can be established there yet, so I am not holding my breath.

What is most clear is that any sort of real reform has to come about because of changes within the Muslim world. We can push, pull, tug, beg, plead and cajole, but without their participation it is just not going to happen.

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