Story Highlights• Senate panel's report says most severe challenges were expected
• Intel predicted factional fighting, insurgency and al Qaeda and Iran roles
• Bush says he made decisions taking all information into account
• Shiite cleric al-Sadr urges his militia to stop fighting fellow Iraqis
Adjust font size:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, U.S. intelligence predicted many of the current challenges there, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation report released Friday.
Those predicted -- and realized -- problems included an increase in al Qaeda operations, sectarian violence within Iraq and Iran's efforts to shape Iraq's future after the ouster of Saddam Hussein.
Intelligence analysts also predicted that establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a "long, difficult and probably turbulent challenge," the report said.
Noting that prewar Iraq was a "deeply divided society," intelligence warned that Shiite reprisals for their oppression under Hussein's regime would be a "major concern to the Sunni elite and could erupt if not prevented by an occupying force," the report said.
U.S. occupation of Iraq could lead to increased terror attacks and operations by al Qaeda, which was judged likely to seize the opportunity presented by the occupation, the intelligence community said, according to the report.
In addition, the report said, a U.S. occupation of Iraq "probably would result in a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups."
Invading Iraq would provide an opportunity for Tehran to expand Iranian influence as well, the intelligence community said, and Iranian leaders might "try to influence the shape of post-Saddam Iraq to preserve Iranian security and demonstrate that Iran is an important regional actor," the report said.
Committee Democrats said the Bush administration's refusal to heed the warnings has led to "tragic consequences."
"The committee is unable to answer the question as to whether the president personally was presented with the intelligence community's informed judgments about the factors that could prevent success from being achieved in Iraq," said the Democratic response, signed by committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and two others.
"What can be said with greater certainty is that these prewar cautions were marginalized, if not ignored, by an administration set on going to war."
But Republican members of the committee said the investigation had become "too embroiled in politics and partisanship" to deliver an "accurate and meaningful report that both sides could support."
They accused Democrats of "cherry-picking" information for political gain.
It pointed out the intelligence community's assessments on post-war Iraq were only one tool available to policy makers and military planners before the Iraq war.
The report appears "to be aimed at assaulting the current administration," the Republican members said.
Two other Republicans on the committee, however -- Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- supported the conclusions of Democrats.
During a news conference Thursday, President Bush stood by his decision to enter the war.
"Going into Iraq, we were warned about a lot of things, some of which happened, some of which didn't happen," Bush said. "And, obviously, I made a decision as consequential as that, I weighed the risks and rewards of any decision.
"I firmly believe the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power," Bush said. "I know the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein in power. I think America is safer without Saddam Hussein in power."
Cleric resurfaces, instructs his forces
Meanwhile, anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, making his first public appearance in four months, on Friday ordered his Mehdi Army militia not to fight with Iraqi police and army forces.
"From time to time, we hear of clashes between our brothers in the Mehdi Army and the brothers in the Iraqi police and army," al-Sadr said in a sermon at a mosque in the Shiite holy city of Kufa, south of Baghdad.
"Pay attention: This is an important point," he said. "As far as I know, the occupation is behind this, creating an excuse for it to stay in our beloved Iraq. So don't give it a reason, please." (Watch al-Sadr deliver a fiery sermon )
Calling the message a fatwa -- a religious legal ruling -- al-Sadr said that "any fighting between the brothers is not allowed and [is] forbidden as long as they follow the good and reject the wrong. I advise the dear brothers in the Mehdi Army to resort to peaceful choices if they are attacked by the weak souls."
Al-Sadr, thought to have been in Iran since February, reached out to Sunnis, who have been locked in sectarian struggles with Shiites in Iraq.
"From here, I specifically mention the Sunni brothers. It is the occupier who came between us and divided us from them to weaken the Iraqi people."
U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the military hopes al-Sadr's "return will contribute to the ongoing dialogue we've already established and had going on now for several months with Shia groups here in Iraq."
In southern Iraq, "a prominent member of the militant arm" of al-Sadr's Mehdi Army was killed Friday by Iraqi special operations forces in Basra, the British military said.
The forces targeted and killed Wissam Abu Qadir, who resisted arrest, in the Hay al Antiza district of the predominantly Shiite city, the British military said. It said Qadir was a top criminal leader involved in "weapons trafficking, theft and assassinations."
CNN's Arwa Damon, Jomana Karadsheh and Paula Hancocks contributed to this report.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gives a sermon Friday at a mosque in Kufa, Iraq, in his first public appearance since February.
Quick Job Search