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Report: CIA chief paints bleak picture in Iraq

Newspaper: Classified cable says it's unlikely to improve soon

A U.S. military helicopter lands at Baghdad's heavily protected Green Zone at sunset Tuesday.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

NEW YORK -- The situation in Iraq is unlikely to improve anytime soon, according to a classified cable and briefings from the Central Intelligence Agency, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The assessments are more pessimistic than the Bush administration's portrayal of the situation to the public, government officials told the newspaper.

The classified cable -- sent last month by the CIA's station chief in Baghdad, who is winding up a one-year tour of duty there -- painted a bleak picture of Iraq's politics, economics and security and reiterated briefings by a senior CIA official, according to the Times article.

The station chief cannot be identified because he is still working undercover, the Times article said.

The cable, described as "unusually candid," cautioned that security in the country is likely to deteriorate unless the Iraqi government makes significant progress in asserting its authority and building up the economy, the Times article said.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte dissented on one point and argued that coalition forces have made greater progress against insurgents than the station chief conveyed. Negroponte also distributed his response, officials told CNN.

But Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, reviewed the cable before its distribution, U.S. officials told CNN, and he offered no objections.

Spokesmen for the White House and the CIA told the Times that they could not discuss intelligence matters and classified documents.

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