The US war in Iraq is a "lost battle" and the violence-ravaged nation's "dire" plight seems certain to see it shatter along ethnic lines, an advisor to the Saudi government is warning.
The damning analysis, unveiled in a presentation at a two-day conference on US-Arab relations here, sees violence in Iraq getting worse and alleges large-scale Iranian "interference" there set to grow.
"It is already a lost battle," said Nawaf Obaid, Managing Director of the Saudi National Security Assessment project, at the annual policymakers conference of the National Council on US-Arab Relations.
The question in Iraq is not "if the US succeeds - it has failed by every single measure that you can think of," said Obaid, private security and energy advisor to the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal.
"The failure is only compounded by the fact that we just don't know what the endgame is." said Obaid, head of the Riyadh-based independent consultancy which advises the Saudi government.
The presentation was released as debate on Iraq reached fever pitch on the US campaign trail ahead of crucial mid-term elections next week, and as foreign policy analysts here predict a possible change of US direction.
The study concluded that a Kurdish drive for quasi-independence within Iraq would gather speed, as would the insurgency, and Iranian influence in the country could be expected to increase as American influence waned.
Vice President Dick Cheney said in an interview yesterday violence would go on "for some considerable period of time in Iraq," but argued progress had been made.