US, National Security Council, "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq," Excerpts, January 2003, Published in the New York Times, 13 March 2006

Excerpts From National Security Council Report

In January 2003, the National Intelligence Council issued a thirty-eight-page classified report entitled "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq." The report noted that the failure to provide security, restore basic services, and make progress in transferring power to the Iraqi people would lead to the perception that the United States was an occupying power. But the report did not emphasize the possibility of an insurgency. Key sections of the report follow.

--"The building of an Iraqi democracy would be a long, difficult, and probably turbulent process, with potential for backsliding into Iraq's tradition of authoritarianism. Iraqi political culture does not foster liberalism or democracy. Iraq lacks the experience of a loyal opposition and effective institutions for mass political participation. Saddam's brutal methods have made a generation of Iraqis distrustful of surrendering or sharing power. The principal positive elements in any effort at democratization would be the current relative weakness of political Islam in Iraq and the contributions that could be made by four million Iraqi exiles, many of whom are Westernized and well educated, and by the now impoverished and underemployed Iraqi middle class. Iraq would be unlikely to split apart, but a post-Saddam authority would face a deeply divided society with a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so.

--"Sunni Arabs would face possible loss of their long-standing privileged position while Shia would seek power commensurate with their majority status. Kurds could try to take advantage of Saddam's departure by seizing some of the large northern oil fields, a move that would elicit forceful responses from Sunni Arabs and from Turkey. Score settling would occur throughout Iraq between those associated with Saddam's regime and those who had suffered most under it.

--"Iraq's large petroleum resources, its greatest asset, would make economic reconstruction less difficult than political transformation. Iraq's economic options would remain few and narrow without forgiveness of debt, a reduction in reparations from the previous Persian Gulf War or something akin to a Marshall plan. Iraq's economic and financial prospects would vary significantly depending on how much damage its oil facilities sustained in war. If they remained relatively unscathed and any administrative issues involving organization of Iraq's oil industry were resolved it would be possible to increase oil production in three months from 2.4 million barrels per day to 3.1 million barrels per day. A less oil-dependent economy with a strong private sector would be required to generate the more than 240,000 new jobs needed each year to accommodate the rapidly growing labor force.

--"Major outside assistance would be required to meet humanitarian needs. Increasing numbers of refugees and internally displaced persons combined with civil strife would strain Iraq's already inadequate health care services, food distribution networks and supplies of potable water. Most Iraqis depend on government food rations and are not equipped to deal with hoarding, looting or price gauging. Rapid reconstitution of the distribution system would be critical to avoiding widespread health problems. Iraqis have restored their physical infrastructure quickly after previous wars. The difficulty of restoring such services as water and electricity after a new war would depend chiefly on how much destruction was caused by urban combat.

--"The foreign and security policies of a new Iraqi government necessary would defer heavily in the near term to the interests of the United States, United Nations or an international coalition. But it would also reflect many continuing Iraqi perceptions and interests. Those perceptions, particularly of threats from regional states, such as Iran, Turkey and Israel, would increasingly shape the Iraqis' policies as they reasserted their independence. These threat perceptions along with a prideful sense of Iraqi's place as a regional power probably would sustain Iraq's interest in rebuilding its military. Unless guaranteed a security umbrella against its strategic rivals Iraq's interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction would eventually revive. A new Iraqi government would have little interest in supporting terrorism, although strong Iraqi support for the Palestinians would continue. If Baghdad were unable to exert control over the Iraqi countryside Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups could operate from remote areas.

--"Once the most pressing needs became less of a worry for most Iraqis, however, politics and the nature of the ruling authority would become increasingly important to them. Iraqis would expect progress in transferring power from foreign occupiers, however much they had been welcomed as liberators, to indigenous leaders. Attitudes toward a foreign military force would depend largely on the progress made in transferring power as well as on the degree to which that force were perceived as providing necessary security and fostering reconstruction and a return to prosperity."

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