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March 13, 2003

Secret State Dept. Report Disputing Bush Claim on Arab 'Domino Effect'

Forward runs this interesting piece
WASHINGTON — The State Department is circulating a classified report dismissing the White House claim that a regime change in Iraq would trigger a push for democracy throughout the Arab world.

The report strongly criticizes the controversial prediction of a post-Saddam Hussein democratic "domino effect" in the Middle East, the Forward has learned. It was put together by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, an agency that produces independent intelligence assessment reports. Officials at the State Department have taken the unusual step of sending the secret report to a select group of legislators on Capitol Hill.

Congressional staffers confirmed the existence of the report, but refused to disclose any details, citing the document's classified status.

The report appears to contradict a nationally televised speech delivered by President Bush February 26, in which he argued that "a new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region." In addition to undermining a chief administration argument in favor of invasion, the report could also signal a new round of policy battles between the State and Defense departments.

In recent weeks, Secretary of State Colin Powell has increasingly aligned himself publicly with the views of leading Pentagon hawks on the question of whether to invade Iraq. But observers predicted that this inter-agency truce is likely to collapse over the post-war question of whether to launch a wider democratization campaign.

Administration supporters of a democratization campaign are getting advice from several respected scholars of Middle Eastern affairs, including Bernard Lewis of Princeton University and Fuad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, veteran diplomats and analysts at the State Department are rejecting the idea of a democratization push as a risky and even misguided campaign, ideologically propelled by neo-conservatives in key positions at the White House and the Pentagon.

Several State Department officials and congressional staffers, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted that the question of how to encourage democratization in the Middle East would become a hotly debated issue within the administration and on Capitol Hill after an Iraq war. "At the moment, legislators view this as a secondary matter that is not germane to the actual cause of war," said a staffer for a senior House Democrat. "But Democrats — and some Republicans as well — will surely want to tackle this."
I note the idea that State is suspicious of "neoconservatives in high places"--does this mean Jews? Seems "neocons" is the new polite way of pointing out Jews--newly arrived as opposed to well established conservatives.[more]