Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Brief Iraq Update

Iraq has been quiet enough lately that the media, government, and public have all turned fully towards Afghanistan; as a country, we're now engrossed in it. And frankly, that's correct. It's trouble--Iraq is not. This quick update is to keep you informed, and help your experience with the Iraq War feel a little bit more tied up.

First, deaths continue to fall. US deaths hit a new record low of 8 in March; Iraqi violent deaths stand at 252, up from February, but still lower than any month before 2009, and represents well less than 0.01% of all Iraqis. This violent death rate is now lower than the United States, which sees about 4,200 violent deaths per month, or 0.014% of all Americans (sourced again here). And it looks like it will continue to drop. This lack of violence will give the Iraq government ample opportunity over the next 18 months to strengthen its police force, its political institutions, etc, as they prepare for the exit of the US.

Some problems persist, though they are largely civil (for the moment). Power production continues to lag demand significantly; frankly, I have no idea what the excuse for this is. Even Baghdad only has power 17 hours per day, which is enough to have a pretty full business day, but it makes it hard to run severs, keep refrigerators, have security systems, and all sorts of other pretty important stuff that a business (and thus an economy) needs. Beyond this, Iraq is facing a quiet, but significant, measles outbreak, which is likely to test its public health system.

Otherwise, things are going well. Anbar remains quiet, despite recent government crackdowns on Sunni militia leadership that has the potential to shake the delicate alliance between the Sunni Reawakening Councils and the state. So far, the Sunnis are exclusively using political channels to express their grievances--if these channels prove effective, then they will create an excellent precedent for participation.

Iraq's Kurdish regional authority is being more cooperative, though its rebels are not. Kurdish leader Talabani is backing Baghdad's call for PKK to disarm and become peaceful or face the consequences. But the PKK has shrugged the calls off. Such a scoffing may lead to a confrontation in the north between the PKK/PKK sympathizers, and the state.

But al Qaeda seems to be making its last stand in Mosul; and it's not going particularly well for them. Despite a truck bombing earlier today, violence in Mosul is slowly receding. News reports on activity in the region are minimal.

In light of all this, the US is moving out. Only five of Iraq's 18 provinces have yet to be handed over to full Iraqi security control (putting the US back in bases where it awaits a call by the Iraqi Army for help). By June, Baghdad is planned to be handed over as the last province. Compare this to the mess of 3 years ago:

I think this is rather self-explanatory.

In full, I think even the most hardcore doubters of the efficacy of the Surge/ latter US operations in Iraq are being quieted. There will probably be a few more sporadic updates on the topic by me, but it's mostly time for us all to move on to our other regional problem.
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