In mid to late June 2014 Sunni fighters in Iraq launched a major offensive that saw them capture large swaths of land. While the country had continued to have sporadic fighting since United States forces withdrew in 2011, the early summer offensive by disaffected Sunni and foreign fighters marked a new period in the war.
The United States, which had been in Iraq between 2003 and 2011, was reportedly caught off guard by the offensive, which even left the CIA with very little recourse in its wake.
According to published reports the CIA is finding that it will have decreased effectiveness when attempting to gain intelligence and steer the course of the new conflicts. Whereas operatives previously functioned with wide latitude to pay off various tribal leaders and spy on them, CIA leaders are now saying that those days have likely come to an end.
The CIA is continuing to gather valuable intelligence about the Iraqi fighters who are battling the government for supremacy, but it is finding that its ability to launch counterterrorism missions is practically nonexistent.
Additionally worrying to the CIA is that Iraq has reportedly turned to Iran for help. In the past Americans advised the Iraqi government at all levels, and now it seems as if Iran has stepped in since the U.S. withdraw in 2011.
The lawlessness in the country, which extends from tens of miles north of Baghdad throughout the rest of the north of the country, has left the agency scrambling for information on the key players on all sides, including information on the Iranians who have an interest in coming to Iraq’s rescue.
The intelligence situation in the country is so dire that U.S. government officials have had a hard time honoring Iraqi requests for air strikes, due to a lack of intelligence on who to hit.