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IRAQ: Intelligence failures past, and present?

March 10, 2008 |  8:07 am

Refinery

Three articles in Monday's L.A. Times show the disparate challenges facing the U.S. in Iraq.

Times intelligence beat reporter Greg Miller writes about the release of a report on a touchy subject some Americans believe is counterproductive and others of utmost importance: whether the Bush administration mishandled or lied about intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War to veer the country into a conflict that has cost nearly 4,000 American and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives.

Underlying the subject is whether the U.S. should be in Iraq in the first place, and a crisis of confidence in America's security and foreign policy establishments.

Here's an excerpt from Greg's story:

The long-delayed document catalogs dozens of prewar assertions by President Bush and other administration officials that proved to be wildly inaccurate about Iraq's alleged stockpiles of banned weapons and pursuit of nuclear arms. But officials say the report reaches a mixed verdict on the key question of whether the White House misused intelligence to make the case for war.The document criticizes White House officials for making assertions that failed to reflect disagreements or uncertainties in the underlying intelligence on Iraq, officials said.

Meanwhile, from Baghdad, I write about new details regarding allegations that Iran is interfering in Iraq. Rear Adm. Gregory Smith didn't present hard evidence, but fleshed out a narrative that detainees have related to their interrogator. Many Americans refuse to believe the Bush administration's allegations regarding Iran, in large part because of the intelligence failures of the Iraq war.

Here's an excerpt from Monday's story:

"Groups and elements" including Iranians and militants attached to Lebanon's Hezbollah militia are training Iraqis in Iran to act as recruiters and trainers in Iraq, Smith said. "They're being trained as trainers to set up the teams inside Iraq," he said.... The U.S. gleaned the information from Iraqi detainees who had undergone such training late last year.... "All told the same story," Smith said.... "Handlers trained by Hezbollah inside Iran came back here purposefully to support anti-coalition and anti-security elements."

Finally, from Anbar province, Times San Diego bureau chief Tony Perry files a dispatch from a dilapidated oil refinery.The facility is 70 years old and in a terrible state, but still pumps out oil.

Writes Tony:

The ragged oil refinery in a barren corner of Anbar province looks more like something out of a post-apocalyptic Mel Gibson movie than the centerpiece of an ambitious energy project.

U.S., British and Iraqi officials are having a terribly difficult time patching up the refinery. But, as one Marine points out to Tony, there are worse things they could be doing:

"These people need our help," said Marine Lt. Col. David Bellon, commander of the 3-23. "And this beats the hell out of fighting them."

Borzou Daragahi in Baghdad

Photo: After falling into disrepair and being bombed, the K-3 refinery is getting attention and investment in the hope that it will contribute to Iraq’s future productivity. Credit: Tony Perry / Los Angeles Times

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