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Iraq: The Facts
[Analysis] Figures chart conditions in conflict-torn state
Shannon McCann (joethefig)     Print Article 
Published 2007-02-08 14:06 (KST)   
Last week, the latest update to the Iraq Index was released by The Brookings Institution. And, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for the United States released a report entitled, "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead."

The Brookings Institution is a center-left organization that has been releasing the Iraq Index since November 2003. The Index is a list of data points that the Institution has been compiling and updating over the last three years. As many of the data points have used the same source over the life of the Index, the report provides a good way to see trends since the war began.

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The report released by ODNI highlights situations that could have both a positive and a negative impact on stability in Iraq. This report gives a broad assessment on various conditions and influences within Iraq. It clearly does not support the withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq over the next 12-18 months. It highlights this view by concluding if a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces takes place, the Iraqi Security Force "would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution."

The newest plan put forth by the Bush administration includes sending 25,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq. As one can see in the Iraq Index list of historical U.S. troop strength by month, this is not actually a "new" plan. Between September 2005 and October 2005, the United States increased troop levels from 138,000 troops to 152,000 troops, and then added an additional 8,000 troops in November of that year. At the end of 2005, the United States had 160,000 troops stationed in Iraq. When the United States finishes with the proposed troop increase, American troop levels in Iraq will be very similar to the levels of December 2005. In January 2006, the size of the American force was reduced to 136,000 troops.

Will this troop increase diminish the sectarian violence? Certainly the level of civilian deaths was less in November and December 2005 and in January 2006.

In fact, the number of civilian deaths each month did not significantly increase until May 2006. This number peaked in October 2006 and decreased in November and December, but has not decreased to pre-May levels.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to compare the civilian death numbers between 2006 and before 2006 as tracked by the Iraq Index. That is because the Brookings Institution changed the source on which they base the tracking of the numbers at the beginning of 2006. They claim that this is because "starting in 2006, we have found it is no longer practical to differentiate between acts of war and crime."

This statement is a condemnation of the conditions in Iraq.

But, a look at the report released by ODNI provides even more concerning statements. One of the bullet points listed in the key judgments in this report is "nevertheless, even if violence is diminished, given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation" in the next 12-18 months.

Although the report does state "that the term 'civil war' does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq," it does admit that "the term 'civil war' accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict." This is probably the closest a department in the administration has come to calling the situation in Iraq a civil war.

Another disturbing situation that is brought up in both of these releases and was highlighted by the January bombing at Baghdad's Mustansiriya University involves attacks against professionals and academics within Iraq, and the mass exodus of these professionals out of the country.

The organization Brussels Tribunal maintains a record of all the names of killed and threatened academics in Iraq, which now lists 288 killed.

The Iraq Index estimates, that over one-third of Iraq's physicians have left the country since 2003. One can assume in regions such as Dahuk, Silaimaniya, and Misan, where civilian deaths and violence are less common, that this exodus is not as pronounced as it is in Baghdad, where doctors are needed to treat the wounded from the ongoing violence. Without professionals and academics, the long term prospects of a successful Iraq are limited.

And, Iraq's only real source of income, oil production, has also not been able to reach pre-war levels. In January 2007, the stated goal for Iraqi crude oil production was revised downward from 2.5 million barrel/day to 2.1 million barrels/day by the United States Department of Defense. This coupled with lower oil prices on the commodities markets has reduced revenue from oil significantly since September 2006.

Revenue from crude oil is not the only fuel related indicator that is trending downward in recent months. Overall fuel supplies in Iraq also decreased over the last six months of 2006. As rated in the Iraq Index, fuel supply levels as a percentage of the stated goal have fallen from 70-80 percent in May-September 2006 to 50-57 percent in October 2006-January 2007. These percentages will show an increase in 2007 as the U.S. Department of Defense revised the supply level goals downward in December 2006.

When the United States ousted the government of Saddam Hussein, they set short-term goals of providing electricity. These goals included increasing the amount of electricity generated in Iraq to 6000 megawatts by July 1, 2004 and to provide 10-12 hours of electricity to all parts of the country per day.

Electrical production has never come close to reaching the output goal and has actually decreased from August 2006 levels. The hours of available electricity in both Baghdad and the rest of Iraq have also been trending downward since June, 2006.

Since February 2004, Iraq as a whole has had more hours of electricity per day than it did prior to the war. But, December 2006 was the worst month since May 2005 and January's number looks to be worse than December's.

Even though electricity available in Iraq as a whole is better than pre-war levels, prior to the war, Baghdad averaged 16-24 hours of electricity per day. Since the war, the best month for electricity in Baghdad was March 2004. And, in December 2006 the city only had electricity an average of 6.7 hours/day; a decrease of at least 9 hours per day versus pre-war levels.

There are positive quality of life trends listed in the Iraq Index. More people have telephones, and Internet service. The number of TV and radio stations increased steadily through March 2006. And in March 2006, there were 268 independent newspapers and magazines in Iraq. Prior to the war, the only media outlets in Iraq were controlled by the government.

But, some basic services were still lagging behind pre-war levels. As of March 21, 2006, fewer Iraqis had access to water and sewerage than prior to the war. And, the Iraqi capacity for water treatment was still less than half of the pre-war levels.

More Iraqi children are enrolling in Primary, Middle, and High School, which indicates that the violence has not yet been targeting children. In fact, these schools maybe providing a "safe haven" for the Iraqi children amid the growing violence. But, with the academic class leaving the country and little prospect to lure foreign citizens into the country, there are limited teachers available to educate these prospective students.

With gasoline supplies falling, water and sewerage limited, electricity sporadic, and deadly violence targeting civilians continuing unabated, it will be very difficult to stem the exodus of the educated population. And, the longer these people live outside of Iraq, the chances of luring them back decrease. Without professionals, academics, and entrepreneurs, there may be no one left in the country to rebuild the economy even if the situation improves.

If the new security plan that the United States and the Iraqi Government are preparing to launch fails to quickly reduce the deadly violence, the numbers tracked on the Iraq Index will most certainly worsen by the time of the next update.

If security is not provided for professionals and academics as part of this plan, their migration out of Iraq's most dangerous locations will most likely continue. If this plan does reduce violence, then there needs to be a re-focused effort by the United States and the Iraqi Government on the infrastructure and services available to the Iraqi population. Cell phone towers and Internet connections are no substitutes for everyday services such as electricity, water, sewers, and fuel.
All data and quotes from the "Iraq Index" released by the Brookings Institution, The Office of the Director of National Intelligence report "Prospects for Iraq's Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead," and the Brussels Tribunal Web site. All of these are released to the public and available on the Internet.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Shannon McCann

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