USAid report offers grim iraq assessment

Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 10:53 AM

As Watching the Watchers wrote back in November, the President's "Iraq Plan" unveiled then really didn't give a realistic description of Iraqi insurgents.

Now, an article in the UK's The Guardian, based on an assessment of the US's own Agency for International Development (USAid) paints a far grimmer picture of Iraq in general, and the insurgency in particular.

The USAid description is a "conflict assessment" that was attached to an "invitation to to bid" on a project rehabilitating Iraqi cities published earlier this month by the US Agency for International Development (USAid).  According to a 2004 document from USAid:

"Conflict assessments are diagnostic tools that are designed to help Missions: 1) identify and prioritize the causes and consequences of
violence and instability that are most important in a given country context; 2) understand
how existing development programs interact with factors linked to violence; and 3) determine where development and humanitarian assistance can most effectively support local efforts to manage conflict and build peace.

"Conflict assessments are meant to provide a broad overview of destabilizing patterns and trends in a society. They sift through the many potential causes of conflict that exist and zero in on those that are most likely to lead to violence (or renewed violence) in a particular context. While they provide  recommendations about how to make development and humanitarian assistance more responsive to conflict dynamics, they do not provide detailed guidance on how to design specific conflict activities."

As reported in The Guardian, the recent Iraq conflict assessment:

--talks of an "internecine conflict" involving religious, ethnic, criminal and tribal groups.

--states that "It is increasingly common for tribesmen to 'turn in' to the authorities enemies as insurgents - this as a form of tribal revenge."

--states that "External fighters and organisations such as al-Qaida and the Iraqi offshoot led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are gaining in number and notoriety as significant actors. Recruitment into the ranks of these organisations takes place throughout the Sunni Muslim world, with most suicide bombers coming from Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region."

--argues that insurgent attacks "significantly damage the country's infrastructure and cause a tide of adverse economic and social effects that ripple across Iraq".

--describes Baghdad as "reportedly divided into zones controlled by organised criminal groups-clans."

The Guardian does note that "a former CIA expert on Iraq now teaching at the National Defence University in Washington...said USAid could have published the document to pressure the White House to increase its funding."