The cable, sent late last month as the officer ended a yearlong tour, presented a bleak assessment on matters of politics, economics and security, the officials said.
The cable warned of increased sectarian fighting and other violence unless the Iraqi government can boost the economy and better impose its authority, the Times cited the officials as saying.
They said its basic conclusions had been echoed in briefings presented by a senior C.I.A. official who recently visited Iraq.
The report comes as a wave of insurgent attacks have killed more than 80 Iraqis since Friday, and as Iraq's Sunni Arab Muslims are demanding that national elections scheduled for Jan. 30 be postponed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he "cannot imagine" how Iraq's elections can go forward next month amid the violence.
In other developments:
Saleh, in a speech to the Iraqi National Council, did not specify which countries were to blame for allowing foreign fighters into Iraq. He said earlier, however, that Iraqi police had arrested a Syrian citizen driving a car bomb packed with artillery shells and other explosives.
"There is evidence indicating that some groups in some neighboring countries are playing a direct role in the killing of the Iraqi people and such thing is not acceptable to us," Saleh said, adding that talks with foreign leaders to stop the problem had gotten nowhere.
"In my opinion, we have reached a stage in which if we do not see a real response from those countries, then we are obliged to take a decisive stance," Saleh said, without giving details.
In the past, Iraq has blamed much of its insurgency on foreign fighters and has called on its neighbors — particularly Syria and Iran — to guard their borders more closely against infiltration. Neighboring countries have expressed concern that instability in Iraq poses a threat to the entire region.
Although the Bush administration has said it plans to stick to the Jan. 30 election date despite the violence, Putin expressed doubts about the date in a meeting in Moscow with interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
"Honestly speaking, I cannot imagine how it is possible to organize elections under the conditions of occupation by foreign forces," the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Putin as saying.
On Monday, President Bush met with interim Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer and said it was impossible to "guarantee 100 percent security" in Iraq, but he pledged the United States would do everything it could to make the elections as safe as possible.
Al-Yawer, a Sunni Muslim, expressed resolve to defeat the insurgents, saying "victory is not only possible, it is a fact." He said most Iraqis want the elections. His White House visit is seen as a way to persuade Iraq's political minorities, comprising mostly Sunni groups, not to boycott the elections.
Sunni Muslims represent one-fifth of Iraq's nearly 26 million people and wielded the power under Saddam Hussein. They fear the election will give Shiite Muslims, with 60 percent of the population, an overpowering grip on the nation. U.S. and Iraqi officials are concerned that a boycott by Sunnis could undermine the legitimacy of a new government.
Putin also said he expected the interests of Russian companies to be considered in Iraqi reconstruction, given that Russia was willing to join in writing off 80 percent of Iraq's debts to the Paris Club of creditor nations.