Latest Iraq NIE

Mark Mazetti and Eric Schmitt of the New York Times are reporting that a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq cites significant security improvements and progress toward healing sectarian political rifts, but concludes that security remains fragile and terrorist groups remain capable of initiating large attacks.

The classified document provides a more upbeat analysis of conditions in Iraq than the last major assessment by United States spy agencies, last summer. It was completed this week, just days before the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, is due in Washington to give lawmakers a progress report on the military strategy in Iraq.

Among other assessments, the estimate cites slow but steady progress by Iraqi politicians on forging alliances between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq as well as factors that could reverse this trend. The estimate also warned that security gains could be upended and that militant groups were still capable of deadly attacks in Baghdad, the capital.

Meanwhile, Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post reports that Senators Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to release an unclassified summary of the NIE.

Without the NIE, Levin and Kennedy wrote, "Congress and the American people will not have the essential information needed for an informed public debate." The document, an update of two previous assessments publicly released last year, was completed and delivered to Congress on Tuesday.

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