WASHINGTON—One of the objectives of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group was to provide an objective view of the situation in Iraq, free of partisan bickering and political spin. Here, drawn from throughout the report, are findings on some critical issues.
_The Overall Situation
"There is no guarantee for success in Iraq. The situation in Baghdad and several provinces is dire . . . The level of violence is high and growing. There is great suffering, and the daily lives of many Iraqis show little or no improvement. Pessimism is pervasive. . . . (T)he ability of the United States to influence events in Iraq is diminishing. . . .
"Four of Iraq's eighteen provinces are highly insecure—Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala and Salah ad Din. These provinces account for about 40 percent of Iraq's population of 26 million. . . .
"Recent polling indicates that only 36 percent of Iraqis feel their country is heading in the right direction, and 79 percent of Iraqis have a `mostly negative' view of the influence that the United States has in their country."
_The Sunni Muslim Insurgency
"Most attacks against Americans still come from the Sunni insurgency. . . . It has significant support with the Sunni Arab community. . . . Al-Qaida in Iraq is now largely Iraqi-run and composed of Sunni Arabs. Foreign fighters—numbering an estimated 1,300—play a supporting role or carry out suicide operations."
"The Mahdi Army, led by Moqtada al-Sadr, may number as many as 60,000 fighters. It has directly challenged U.S. and Iraqi government forces, and it is widely believed to engage in regular violence against Sunni Arab civilians. . . .
"The Badr Brigade is affiliated with the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. The Badr Brigade has long-standing ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Many Badr members have become integrated into the Iraqi police, and others play policing roles in southern Iraqi cities. While wearing the uniform of the security services, Badr fighters have targeted Sunni Arab civilians."
_The U.S. Military
"Nearly every U.S. Army and Marine combat unit, and several National Guard and Reserve units, have been to Iraq at least once. . . . Regular rotations, in and out of Iraq or within the country (Iraq), complicate brigade and battalion efforts to get to know the local scene, earn the trust of the populations, and build a sense of cooperation.
"Many military units are under significant strain. . . . (M)any units do not have fully functional equipment for training when they redeploy to the United States. . . .
"The American military has little reserve force to call on if it needs ground forces to respond to other crises around the world."
_The Iraqi Army and Police
"The Iraqi Army is making fitful progress toward becoming a reliable and disciplined fighting force loyal to the national government. . . . Significant questions remain about the ethnic composition and loyalties of some Iraqi units—specifically, whether they will carry out missions on behalf of national goals instead of a sectarian agenda. . . .
"The state of the Iraqi police is substantially worse than that of the Iraqi Army. . . . It has neither the training nor legal authority to conduct criminal investigations, nor the firepower to take on organized crime, insurgents or militias. . . .
"Iraqi police cannot control crime, and they routinely engage in sectarian violence, including the unnecessary detention, torture and targeted execution of Sunni Arab civilians. . . .
"There is no clear Iraqi or U.S. agreement on the character and mission of the police. . . ."
_The Baghdad Security Plan
"In a major effort to quell violence in Iraq, U.S. military forces joined with Iraqi forces to establish security in Baghdad with an operation called `Operation Forward Together II,' which began in August 2006. . . .
"The results . . . are disheartening. Violence in Baghdad—already at high levels—jumped more than 43 percent between the summer and October 2006. U.S. forces continue to suffer high casualties. Perpetrators of violence leave neighborhoods in advance of security troops, only to filter back later. Iraqi police have been unable or unwilling to stop such infiltration. . . . The Iraqi government has rejected sustained security operations in Sadr City (a Shiite stronghold)."
"Iraq's leaders often claim they do not want a division of the country, but we found that key Shia and Kurdish leaders have little commitment to national reconciliation. One prominent Shia leader told us pointedly that the current government has the support of 80 percent of the population, notably excluding Sunni Arabs. . . . (M)any of Iraq's most powerful and well-positioned leaders are not working toward a united Iraq. . . ."
"The Iraqi government is not providing its people with basic services: electricity, drinking water, sewage, health care, and education."
"Currency reserves are stable and growing. . . . Consumer imports . . . have increased dramatically. New businesses are opening. . . . (W)heat yields increased more than 40 percent in Kurdistan this year. . . .
"Despite the positive signs, many leading economic indicators are negative. . . . Inflation is above 50 percent. Unemployment estimates range widely from 20 to 60 percent. The investment climate is bleak. . . ."
"Iraq produces around 2.2 million barrels (of oil) per day, and exports about 1.5 million barrels per day. This is below . . . pre-war production levels . . ."
"The United Nations estimates that 1.6 million (Iraqis) are displaced within Iraq, and up to 1.8 million Iraqis have fled the country."
_Iran and Syria
"Of all the neighbors, Iran has the most leverage in Iraq. Iran has long-standing ties to many Iraqi Shia politicians. . . . (and) has provided arms, financial support, and training for Shiite militias. . . . Iran appears content for the U.S. military to be tied down in Iraq, a position that limits U.S. options in addressing Iran's nuclear program. . . .
"The Syrian role is not so much to take active measures as to countenance malign neglect: The Syrians look the other way as arms and foreign fighters flow across their border into Iraq. . . . Like Iran, Syria is content to see the United States tied down in Iraq."
_The Cost of the War
"As of December 2006, nearly 2,900 Americans have lost their lives serving in Iraq. Another 21,000 Americans have been wounded, many severely.
"To date, the United States has spent roughly $400 billion on the Iraq War, and costs are running about $8 billion per month. In addition, the United States must expect significant `tail costs' to come. Caring for veterans and replacing lost equipment will run in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Estimates run as high as $2 trillion for the final cost of the U.S. involvement in Iraq."
_The Possible Consequences of Iraq Violence
"Ambassadors from neighboring countries told us that they fear the distinct possibility of Sunni-Shia clashes across the Islamic world. . . . Terrorism could grow. . . . The global standing of the United States could suffer if Iraq descends further into chaos. . . . Continued problems in Iraq could lead to greater polarization in the United States."
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.