Iraq Report Points to Limited Progress

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By ANNE FLAHERTY
The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 10, 2007; 8:20 PM

WASHINGTON -- Struggling to defend its Iraq policy, the Bush administration in a 23-page classified report will point to limited progress being made by the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The interim assessment, which will be presented on Capitol Hill on Thursday, finds the Iraqi government has failed to pass long-promised laws that Washington has called key to national cohesion and economic recovery, such as legislation that would fairly divide Iraq's oil resources.

But in a glass-half-full approach, the report will emphasize that the Iraqi government is making some progress in about half of the areas identified earlier this year by Congress. Other areas where Baghdad is not making significant gains will be dismissed as not as critical to the long-term success in Iraq.

The report also will point toward signs of hope throughout Iraq, such as a drop in sectarian killings in Baghdad and opposition to al-Qaida by tribal sheiks in Anbar province.

The primary argument will be that lawmakers should wait until September to judge the U.S. strategy in Iraq. But the report also will not try to sugarcoat what any observer can determine on his own.

One senior administration official, who has read the report, described it as giving the Iraqi government a grade of 'incomplete.'

Two administration officials separately confirmed that the report concludes Iraq has not met or made substantial progress toward about half the targets set by Congress and has made progress on or arguably achieved the others.

Neither official would provide examples and spoke on condition of anonymity because the unclassified version had not been released.

Earlier this year, Congress passed a 2007 war spending bill that identified 18 benchmarks for political, security and economic reforms. The list was based on promises made by the Iraqi government when Bush agreed to send in 30,000 additional U.S. troops.

Based on that list, the administration is likely to argue some progress has been made in reducing the level of sectarian violence and militia control. Iraq also has established several, but not all, of the needed joint neighborhood security stations in Baghdad, as well as increased the number of capable Iraqi security units.

At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack agreed that none of what he called "the big three" benchmarks had been met: enacted Iraqi laws to allocate oil and gas resources and revenue and to address amnesty for former Baath Party members.

"Take a look at what the Iraqis have done, what they haven't done," he told reporters, when asked what the Iraqi government had achieved. "They have made progress on an oil law. It's not done yet. They have made progress on the revenue-sharing law. It's not done yet. De-Baathification is farther behind."

But, in comments that appeared to signal how the report will address shortcomings and how the administration will argue against any change in policy, McCormack stressed "very promising" progress the Iraqis have made in other areas not covered by the requirements.

"There's been a lot of progress in areas that aren't necessarily measurable or measured by the benchmarks that the Congress has put out," he said, referring to the chiefs of some Sunni clans who are allying themselves against insurgents in Anbar and Diyala provinces and minor local- and neighborhood-level political developments.

"Unless you have a set of benchmarks that looks like the New York City telephone book, it's very difficult to measure," McCormack said.

In a fact sheet released to reporters, the White House identified a total of 10 areas of improvement in Iraq that are likely to be found in the upcoming report. These include an increase in discovered arms caches, attacks in Anbar at a two-year low and car bombings and suicide attacks being down in May and June.

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Associated Press writers Anne Gearan and Matthew Lee contributed to this report.


© 2007 The Associated Press

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