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Democrat: Report on Iraq 'too rosy'

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  • NEW: Republican accuses Democrats of trying to politicize results
  • Democrats say "surge" has failed to achieve political reconciliation
  • New Iraq intelligence report suggests that "surge" strategy is working
  • Classified report does not take recent violence into account, Democrats say
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senior Democratic senators challenged a new intelligence report's assessment of President Bush's "surge" strategy Friday, saying the troop increase in Iraq has failed to achieve its strategic goals.

A Shiite fighter aims at Iraqi government troops in the Sadr City area of Baghdad during fighting this week.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was distributed to key lawmakers this week, sets the stage for the latest public progress report on Iraq that will be delivered Tuesday and Wednesday to congressional committees by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, the top U.S. diplomat in Baghdad.

"In my judgment, it's too rosy, but there are parts of it that are not so rosy, and both pieces need to be declassified," Sen. Carl Levin said, pointing in particular to the portion of the report describing Iraq's political progress.

Levin chairs the Armed Services Committee, one of the panels Crocker and Petraeus will testify before next week.

The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, however, said the Democrats were complaining about the report because they did not like the report's finding and were trying to "politicize it."

"Old adage from the Midwest: When you throw a rock into a pack of dogs, you know who's been hit by who hollers," said Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri. "All I can say is, the people who are bitching obviously didn't like the results. I happen to have confidence in the analysis that's now being conducted.

"From everything I know, it is a fair representation on what is going on in Iraq, and people will have the opportunity to question Gen. Petraeus and others," he said. "But the fact that it has not been released and you see some violent anti-war, anti-Iraq war people complaining about it lets you know what the general tone of it is." Video Watch how recent fighting has blurred the picture in Iraq »

For their part, Bush administration officials have declined to characterize the findings of the intelligence estimate, largely because they do not want to get ahead of the public testimony from Petraeus and Crocker.

The previous report on Iraq, issued last summer in advance of the first progress report from Petraeus and Crocker, suggested that progress was more uneven and the situation more precarious.

Democrats are raising concerns that the new report is downplaying recent violence on the ground to strengthen the president's hand in advance of the Petraeus-Crocker testimony.

One Democratic aide said the latest report "is not inconsistent with public statements on Iraq" made in recent Bush speeches casting the war in a more positive light by highlighting security and political gains in Iraq.

A second Democratic aide criticized the intelligence estimate for not delving much further than recent news reports on Iraq, charging that it is "not a very useful or innovative intelligence analysis overall."

Violence in Iraq recently increased after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki launched a military operation in Basra on March 25 meant to root out criminals who had been carrying out indiscriminate attacks, burglaries and oil smuggling. Video Watch al-Maliki's big gamble »

The operation sparked fighting against the Iraqi troops and the multiple Shiite militias that control parts of the city, despite Iraqi and U.S. authorities' repeated insistence that militias weren't targeted.

Much of the fighting occurred in strongholds of the Mehdi Army militia, loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Firefights occurred in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City as well as in Basra.

On Friday, al-Maliki ordered a stop on the raids against the militias to "give time to those who are repentant" to lay down their weapons after al-Sadr offered to purge the Iraqi security forces of militia members.

Democrats familiar with the report are also saying the 50-plus page document does not adequately delve into what impact U.S. troop reductions may have on the situation in Iraq.

"It just seems to indicate that there is almost no consideration of alternatives to the status quo going on in government right now," one of the Democratic aides said.

Sen. Joseph Biden said Friday that the troop surge had contributed to the reduction in violence since it started last year but that the political reconciliation that the reduction in violence was supposed to facilitate had not been realized.

"The military has done its job. The violence has come down, but the Iraqis have not come together," said Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "That's like going from drowning to treading water."

"This is kind of like 'Groundhog Day.' We're right back to where we were before the surge," he added.

Petraeus and Crocker are also scheduled to appear before Biden's committee next week.

Levin also said he expected Petraeus to recommend an indefinite pause in the withdrawal of troops from Iraq this summer, which he described as an "open-ended pause that compounds the problem of an open-ended policy."

Levin and Sen. Edward Kennedy have called for John McConnell, the director of national intelligence, to declassify the report's key conclusions before Crocker and Petraeus testify.

"This information is critical to the public debate in the coming weeks and months," Levin and Kennedy wrote in a letter to McConnell.


The pair noted that unclassified versions of Iraq intelligence estimates have been released.

"There is no compelling reason not to release an unclassified version of this latest NIE that summarizes the major conclusions and judgments of the classified report, while still protecting the sources and methods of our intelligence community," the two wrote. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Ed Henry and Ted Barrett contributed to this report

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