Iraq: Democracy 'could actually strengthen the guerrillas'
Senior U.S. officials have begun to question a key presumption of American strategy in Iraq: that establishing democracy there can erode and ultimately eradicate the insurgency gripping the country.
The expectation that political progress would bring stability has been fundamental to the Bush administration's approach to rebuilding Iraq as well as a central theme of White House rhetoric to convince the American public that its policy in Iraq remains on course.
But within the last two months, U.S. analysts with access to classified intelligence data have started to challenge this precept, noting a "significant and disturbing disconnect" between apparent advances on the political front and any progress in reducing insurgent attacks.
Now, with next Saturday's constitutional referendum appearing more likely to divide than unify the country, some within the Bush administration have concluded that the quest for democracy in Iraq, at least in its current form, could actually strengthen the guerrillas.
The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Army Gen. George W. Casey, has acknowledged that such a scenario is possible, while officials elsewhere in the administration, all of whom declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said they shared similar concerns about the referendum.
Iraq's Sunni Muslim Arabs, who are believed to form the core of the insurgency, are bitterly opposed to a constitution drafted mainly by the country's majority Shiite Muslim sect and ethnic Kurds. Yet from all indications, they will fail to muster enough votes to defeat it.
"It could make people on the fence a little more angry or [make them] come off the fence," said a senior U.S. official who requested anonymity. Read more