Oy! I repeat, Oy!

June 23, 2004

According to Seymour Hersh’s newest article in The New Yorker (posted on the web on June 21, will appear in the June 28 print issue), leading Israeli politicians (of both Labour and Likud), intelligence officials, and generals warned the Bush Administration in the summer of 2003 that a full-blown insurgency was about to erupt in Iraq. Moreover, by the end of the fall of 2003, a similarly broad swath of Israeli political, intelligence, and military leaders concluded that the insurgency had essentially suceeded, and the US would now have to settle merely for disengaging from Iraq in the least damaging way possible.

Here’s the key parts of the first 10 paragraphs of the Hersh article:

In July, 2003, two months after President Bush declared victory in Iraq, the war, far from winding down, reached a critical point. Israel, which had been among the war’s most enthusiastic supporters, began warning the Administration that the American-led occupation would face a heightened insurgency—a campaign of bombings and assassinations—later that summer…

[…]

The warnings of increased violence proved accurate. By early August, the insurgency against the occupation had exploded, with bombings in Baghdad, at the Jordanian Embassy and the United Nations headquarters, that killed forty-two people. A former Israeli intelligence officer said that Israel’s leadership had concluded by then that the United States was unwilling to confront Iran; in terms of salvaging the situation in Iraq, he said, “it doesn’t add up. It’s over. Not militarily—the United States cannot be defeated militarily in Iraq—but politically.”

[…]

In early November, the President received a grim assessment from the C.I.A.’s station chief in Baghdad, who filed a special field appraisal, known internally as an Aardwolf, warning that the security situation in Iraq was nearing collapse. The document, as described by Knight-Ridder, said that “none of the postwar Iraqi political institutions and leaders have shown an ability to govern the country” or to hold elections and draft a constitution.

A few days later, the Administration, rattled by the violence and the new intelligence, finally attempted to change its go-it-alone policy, and set June 30th as the date for the handover of sovereignty to an interim government, which would allow it to bring the United Nations into the process. “November was one year before the Presidential election,” a U.N. consultant who worked on Iraqi issues told me. “They panicked and decided to share the blame with the U.N. and the Iraqis.”

[…]

Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister [and before that, the most decorated soldier in the history of the Israeli Defence Force], who supported the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq, took it upon himself at this point to privately warn Vice-President Dick Cheney that America had lost in Iraq; according to an American close to Barak, he said that Israel “had learned that there’s no way to win an occupation.” The only issue, Barak told Cheney, “was choosing the size of your humiliation.” Cheney did not respond to Barak’s assessment. (Cheney’s office declined to comment.)

In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel’s strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq’s Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Several officials depicted Sharon’s decision, which involves a heavy financial commitment, as a potentially reckless move that could create even more chaos and violence as the insurgency in Iraq continues to grow.

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