There is a common denominator to the bombing of a Baghdad market last Saturday and recent American military raids leading to the capture of Iranian personnel in Iraq.

In both cases, policy decisions originating in Washington will make it even harder to achieve the Bush administration’s aim of bringing security and stability to Iraq. This clash between ends and means reflects either confusion in the highest echelons of the administration about the actual situation in Iraq or a deliberate refusal to face reality.

President Bush’s latest decisions disregard key judgments of a National Intelligence Estimate released last Friday. A history of “Sunni political, social, and economic domination have made the Shia deeply insecure about their hold on power,” the estimate observes. “Many Sunni Arabs remain unwilling to accept their minority status.”

There are many other reasons to be wary of Iran, but Bush ought to heed the judgment of his intelligence community when it says that Iraq’s neighbours are “not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq’s internal sectarian dynamics.” The job will only become harder if Bush insists on policies that make America equally abhorred by all the warring parties. — The New York Times