The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency says Iraq and Syria may have been permanently torn asunder by war and sectarian tensions.

Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told an industry conference Thursday that Syria may be split into two or three parts as the result of its civil war.

In Iraq, he said, it is difficult to imagine the autonomous Kurds submitting to the rule of the central government in Baghdad.

CIA Director John Brennan, also on the panel, added that people in those countries now more often identify themselves by tribe or religious sect, rather than as Iraqis and Syrians.

The Obama administration's official policy is that the countries remain whole, and officials have expressed opposition to proposals that would officially split them up along ethnic lines.