Friday, October 30, 2009
Crime in Iraq takes many forms. One that is getting increasing press is kidnapping. Those occurred before, but they had political or sectarian overtones or were done to fund militant groups. Today they are increasingly for pure profit. As a sign of this change, children are becoming a favorite target. There are districts of Baghdad that are plastered with photos of missing kids. The Times of London reported in early October 2009 that the price for a kidnapped child can go as high as $100,000. Many families are said to negotiate with the criminals rather than go to the police.
High-profile robberies are also increasing. The most famous recent case was in July 2009 when members of a Vice President’s security detail held up the Rafidain Bank in Baghdad, stealing $4.8 million and killing 8 people. In August four men with IDs from the Interior Ministry robbed a bank in the capital, and in mid-October thieves held up three jewelry stores in Baghdad as well. In the latter case, 12-15 armed men got out of a minibus and robbed the businesses, while a checkpoint nearby did nothing. Six soldiers and an officer were subsequently arrested for failing to secure the area.
Smuggling is another major issue. This began during Saddam’s time, and has probably increased since then. One reason is because when the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi security forces in 2003 they did away with the border guards, which are only now getting attention. One major item stolen within Iraq and smuggled is oil. A December 2008 audit of the state-run North Oil Company found that 698,000 barrels of oil could be not accounted for, with crime being the major cause. This is another example of a trade that was begun by insurgents to pay for their operations, that is now done increasingly for personnel gain.
There is also a growing sex market for young Iraqi girls. There was a report in Time magazine in March 2009 that said tens of thousands of girls were believed to have been shipped off by criminal gangs to countries like Syria, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.
A military spokesman in Baghdad said that former militants and gangs are responsible for 60-70% of the crimes investigated in the capital. With the decline in insurgent, and especially Shiite militia and Special Group activities, and a bad labor market, there is little to do for many young men. That is probably the number one reason for the increase in criminal behavior. Iraq has set up a special task force to go after gangs following a series of jewel robberies in April 2009. On the other hand, the press reports that the authorities have blocked investigations of the sex trade. The high levels of corruption amongst the security forces might also undermine this work. It also shows that while security has improved, law and order has yet to be established in Iraq.
Abouzeid, Rania, “Iraq’s Unspeakable Crime: Mothers Pimping Daughters,” Time, 3/7/09
Bakri, Nada, “Eight Killed In Baghdad Jewel Heists,” Washington Post, 10/15/09
Denselow, James, “The thieves of Baghdad,” Guardian, 10/9/09
Kerbaj, Richard, “Child hostages offer quick way for Iraqi gangsters to make money,” Times of London, 10/7/09
Miller, Deborah, “Iraqis face new threat: brutal violence,” Cleveland Plain Dealer,” 9/21/09
Oppel, Richard, “Iraq’s Insurgency Runs on Stolen Oil Profits,” New York Times, 3/16/08
Williams, Timothy, “As Iraq Seeks Oil Investors, They See an Uncertain Bet,” New York Times, 10/14/09
According to the United Nations, 46-56% of Irbil’s cropland has been hit by the drought. Many farmers in the north rely upon rain to grow their crops, and that has been down 33-50% from 2007 to 2008. As a result, Irbil’s crop production dropped 80% last year. In response, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is attempting to create its first water policy. Currently, residents of the region pay $1 for unlimited water use per month, with the rest subsidized by the KRG. A Swedish company was hired to install 100 water meters in one area of Irbil and found that Kurds use more water than many countries. The KRG now plans on installing 100,000 water meters by the end of the year to start regulating water use. This would be a first in the entire country.
In Basra, not only has its farmland been hit by the drought, but its fresh water supply has as well. 6-25% of the province’s cropland has been affected by the drought. More important is the rising salinity levels, and the incursion of seawater inland. As a result, up to 5,000 villagers have left their land, and the governorate’s director of agriculture warned that farming might be wiped out. The situation is so bad that the local council has asked the province be declared a disaster area. Rather than move to conserve water like Irbil, Basra is in more of a crisis mode and thinking short-term. At the beginning of September 2009, the governor went to Baghdad to talk with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who promised a $20 million project to build water pipes to Basra. That would obviously provide no immediate relief. For that the Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works initiated eight new water purification projects, and the province signed a deal with Iran to deliver 650,000 liters of drinking water every two days. On October 9, the first Iranian shipped docked in Basra’s harbor to deliver the water.
As reported before, Iraq’s drought is reaching disaster levels. Population growth, lack of rain, and no government water policy are the major causes. Iraq’s neighbors are also facing a drought, and they have built dams along many of the major waterways that flow into Iraq. The country’s crops and population have both been affected. Baghdad has still not come up with any real response even though the drought has lasted for two years. That has left the provinces to fend for themselves. Basra is looking short-term, while Irbil is taking the long view. Both approaches need to be considered and coordinated with the central government, but that is simply not happening even though conditions are getting worse.
Alsumaria, “Iran provides Iraq with drinking water,” 10/9/09
- “Will Basra be announced a disaster area?” 9/30/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “8 new water projects in Basra,” 9/26/09
- “Basra governor vows drinking water to all Basra,” 9/6/09
- “Official says Basra’s agriculture may be wiped out,” 8/26/09
Blua, Antoine, “Iraq Tussles With Neighbors Over Water,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 9/13/09
Chulov, Martin, “Surge of seawater drives Iraqis from their homes in the south,” Guardian, 9/11/09
- “Water shortage threatens two million people in southern Iraq,” Guardian, 8/26/09
Hamad, Qassim Khidhir, “Kurdish authorities call for water restrictions,” Niqash, 10/8/09
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “Iraq Humanitarian Update,” October 2008
Al-Wazzan, Saleem, “salt levels in shatt al-arab threaten environmental disaster,” Niqash, 9/2/09
Zavis, Alexandra, “First violence, now drought threatens Iraq farmers,” Los Angeles Times, 6/26/08
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Iraq is a largely urban nation. 71% of the population lives in cities. Of those, 57% live in slum conditions according to the U.N. Diyala, 86%, Maysan, 82%, and Tamim, 78%, were the worst off, while Irbil, 38%, Sulaymaniya, 42%, and Salahaddin, 46%, had the lowest numbers. The main causes are population growth, overcrowding, internal displacement, and poor housing conditions. The U.N. warns that the situation will only get worse. From 1970 to 2007 Iraq’s population almost tripled in size. By 2030 they predict the country will have around 50 million people due to the large number of young people and high fertility rates. That means more overcrowding in Iraq’s urban centers.
% Of Households Living In Slum Conditions By Province
Dhi Qar 59%
Iraq overall 57%
The U.N. doesn’t believe this situation will be alleviated anytime soon because of a number of issues. Among them are laws limiting private investment, banks that give few personal loans, and a government that is slow to open public land to development. There is legislation, for example, that bars companies from owning land. Strong Iraqi nationalism that opposes foreign corporations, a largely state-run economy, and election year politics all deter Iraqi politicians from changing the laws and regulations. Like so many other things, Iraq is facing a growing problem that needs a response, yet the government is unwilling and unable to meet the challenge.
Abbas, Mohammed, “Iraq aims to allow foreign investors to own land,” Reuters, 5/25/09
Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, “Fact Sheet: Housing & Shelter in Iraq,” UN Habitat for a Better Future, 10/5/09
Ryan, Missy and al-Ansary, Khalid, “Iraq investment still hindered by politics, bureaucracy,” Reuters, 10/7/09
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
As reported before, trying to read Iraq based upon mass casualty bombings gives a very distorted view of the situation there. A look at security incidents and casualties shows that Anbar has hardly changed in the last year, and violence there has followed national trends.
The last set of comprehensive security statistics released by the U.S. in July 2009 showed that Anbar was the sixth most violent governorate in Iraq out of eighteen. Attacks went through a steady decline there from April 2008 to March 2009, as they did throughout the country, correlating to the January 2009 provincial elections, and the negotiations that took place afterward to form new governments. After that attacks crept back up from April to July 2009. From April 1 to July 1, 2008 for example, there were 275 security incidents recorded by the U.S. military in Anbar, which then dropped to 53 from January 1 to March 20, 2009. From April to July they increased to 92. In comparison, Ninewa province, the home to Mosul, probably the least stable city in the country, had 454 for those same months.
Security Incidents Reported In Anbar Province By U.S. Military
When going through press accounts of casualties, Anbar followed the same trend. There was a dip in January and February 2009 compared to the end of 2008, and then the number of dead and wounded slowly went back up for the rest of 2009. Quarterly averages for example, show that there were an average of 8.66 monthly incidents in Anbar for the last quarter of 2008 resulting in 25.33 deaths per month and 77.66 wounded. That dropped to just 3.66 attacks per month, 8.66 deaths, and 9.66 wounded for the first quarter of 2009. By the 3rd quarter, the number of average monthly attacks had risen dramatically to 20.66, but the resulting deaths, 24.33, and wounded, 84.00, were about the same as the 4th quarter of 2008.
Security Incidents In Anbar October 2008-September 2009
Wounded: 31 + 2 Americans
Wounded: 14 + 2 Americans
4th Quarter of 2008: 8.66 Attacks/Incidents/month, 25.33 deaths/month, 77.66 wounded/month
1st Quarter of 2009: 3.66 Attacks/Incidents/month, 8.66 deaths/month, 9.66 wounded/month
2nd Quarter of 2009: 14.66 Attacks/Incidents/month, 24.0 deaths/month, 42.66 wounded/month
3rd Quarter of 2009: 20.66 Attacks/Incidents/month, 24.33 deaths/months, 84.00 wounded/month
Violence in Anbar is largely due to two factors. First, there are still Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent and tribal allies active in the province that are attempting to let the Awakening movement, and the Iraqi government know that they are still around. Second, the tribes that aligned themselves with the Americans have broken up into several factions, most of which are extreme rivals with each other. Divisions, feuds, and violence were common occurrences amongst the sheikhs in the past, so there’s no reason to believe that those same dynamics don’t still exist in Anbar today. Together, these two causes are likely to maintain the low level of attacks and casualties currently seen in the governorate.
Associated Press, “Iraq: Insurgency fears rise as bombs kill 19 in Ramadi,” Guardian, 10/11/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “2 cops wounded in Anbar blast,” 8/19/09
- “2 emergency personnel killed in blast near Ramadi,” 9/28/09
- “2 Iraqi soldiers wounded in blast in Falluja,” 8/16/09
- “2 Iraqi soldiers wounded in blast in Falluja,” 8/25/09
- “2 policemen wounded in blast near Anbar,” 9/8/09
- “2 roadside bombs defused, 4 suspects arrested in Falluja,” 8/25/09
- “3 cops injured in IED,” 3/31/09
- “3 policemen wounded in blast near Falluja,” 11/15/08
- “3 soldiers injured in eastern Falluja,” 9/23/09
- “4 killed in attack in Falluja,” 8/16/09
- “6 cops killed, wounded in 2nd Falluja blast,” 12/28/08
- “Blast hits Iraqi army patrol in Falluja,” 8/17/09
- “Car bomb seized in Falluja” 8/25/09
- “Cop killed, 3 wounded in accident in Anbar,” 10/17/08
- “Cop killed, 6 wounded in Falluja suicide bombing,” 12/28/08
- “Falluja blast kills, wounds 7,” 12/24/08
- “Falluja chieftain escapes attempt on his life,” 8/23/09
- “Gunman killed, 2 civilians injured in Ramadi,” 9/3/09
- “Gunman killed in blast in Falluja,” 9/17/09
- “IED defused in central Falluja,” 8/18/09
- “IED defused in Falluja,” 8/13/09
- “IED defused in Falluja without incident,” 10/27/08
- “IED wounds 3 civilians in Falluja,” 9/23/09
- “Police officer killed in Ramadi,” 11/13/08
- “Roadside bomb goes off in western Falluja,” 2/24/09
- “Roadside bomb wounds 3 cops in Falluja,” 8/11/09
- “Sticky bomb injures 2 civilians in Falluja,” 9/23/09
- “Suicide attack kills cop, injures 2 in Falluja,” 3/20/09
- “Tight security in Falluja after blasts,” 12/28/08
- “Toll from Falluja car bombing increases to 23,” 8/3/09
- “Toll of Anbar bombings increases to 8 dead, 22 injured,” 10/11/09
- “U.S. forces shoot mentally handicapped person in Falluja,” 9/16/09
- “URGENT/3 cops wounded in Falluja blast,” 10/18/08
- “Woman killed, 5 civilians injured in Falluja,” 9/16/09
- “Woman killed, 6 wounded in central Anbar,” 8/5/09
BBC, “Falluja car bomb blast ‘kills 13,’” 1/24/09
CNN, “7 prisoners, 6 officers killed in Iraqi jailbreak,” 12/26/08
DPA, “Iraqi tribal leader escapes assassination attempt south of Baghdad,” 3/22/09
Al Dulaimy, Mohammed, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Wednesday 16 September, 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 9/16/09
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Sunday 16 August, 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/16/09
Hammoudi, Laith, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Friday 14 August, 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/14/09
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Friday 21 August, 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/21/09
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Sunday 27 September, 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 9/27/09
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Tuesday 28 October, 2008,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/28/08
Iraq Today, December 2008
- September 2009
Issa, Sahar, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Monday 28 September, 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 9/28/09
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Saturday 6 December, 2008,” McClatchy Newspapers, 12/6/08
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Saturday 8 November, 2008,” McClatchy Newspapers, 11/8/08
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Wednesday 19 August, 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/19/09
Issa, Sahar and Kadhim, Hussein, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Tuesday 24 March, 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 3/24/09
Kadhi, Hussein “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Thursday 09 October 2008,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/9/08
Kadhi, Hussein “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Thursday 19 February 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 2/19/09
Kropf, Schuyler, “Mount Pleasant solder killed,” The Post and Courier, 11/7/08
KUNA, “Woman suicide bomber sets off explosives at hospital entrance in Iraq,” 11/9/08
McCary, John, “The Anbar Awakening: An Alliance of Incentives,” Washington Quarterly, January 2009
Al-Mokhtar, Uthman and Bakri, Nada, “3 Bombings Target Police in Iraq,” Washington Post, 10/12/09
Perth Now, “’Imad the killer’ shot dead by cops,” 12/27/08
Press TV, “Car bomber kills 5, wounds 13 in Iraq,” 1/24/09
Reuters, “Double suicide bombing kills 8 in western Iraq,” 11/8/08
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Aug 12,” 8/12/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Feb 19,” 2/19/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Jan 3,” 1/3/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, March 20,” 3/20/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Nov 3,” 11/3/08
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Nov 13,” 11/13/08
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Oct 17,” 10/17/08
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Oct 18,” 10/18/08
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Oct 25,” 10/25/08
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Oct 26,” 10/26/08
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Oct 29,” 10/29/08
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sept 3,” 9/3/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sept 28,” 9/28/09
- “Gunmen attack, burn ballot station before Iraq vote,” 1/27/09
Shadid, Anthony, “In Anbar, U.S.-Allied Tribal Chiefs Feel Deep Sense of Abandonment,” Washington Post, 10/3/09
Sly, Liz, “Iraq bombings target reconciliation meeting, killing 26,” Los Angeles Times, 10/12/09
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, - "Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress," 1/30/09
-"Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress," 7/30/09
- "Quarterly Report to the United States Congress," 10/30/08
- "Quarterly Report to the United States Congress," 4/30/09
Williams, Timothy, “Bombings Outside Iraq Reconciliation Meeting Kill 23,” New York Times, 10/11/09
Xinhua, “Iraqi police foil suicide car bomb attack in W Iraq,” 8/12/09
- “Suicide bomber kills 2 security members in W Iraq,” 8/15/09
- “Up to 15 killed, 147 injured in Fallujah twin suicide attacks,” 12/4/08
Yusuf, Huma, “Triple bombing kills scores in Anbar Province,” Christian Science Monitor, 10/12/09
Monday, October 26, 2009
The ebb and flow of violence shows the relative weakness of militants. They are only able to launch large attacks every other month. This month does show their increasing ability to carry out headline grabbing bombings however, in their attempt to destabilize the government, just as they did in August when they bombed the Finance and Foreign Ministries. That incident along with Sunday’s undermine Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s claim that he has brought security to Iraq, which might hurt his re-election campaign in the 2010 vote.
It’s also important to remember not to track overall security in Iraq based upon such bombings. There is no direct correlation between such attacks and overall security incidents in Iraq or casualties. In June 2009 for instance, there were 14 mass casualty bombings resulting in 174 deaths. For July there were 35 such attacks and 180 casualties, yet June had more deaths overall than July. According to the latest statistics released by the U.S. military, the number of overall security incidents in Iraq has also stayed pretty much steady since March 2009 at just about 200 per week. Overall, casualties in Iraq are still at unacceptable levels, but they are nowhere near as bad as they were during the sectarian war.
Al-Anbari, Bassim, “Triple attacks kill 19 in western Iraqi city,” Associated Press, 10/12/09
Associated Press, “Police: Suicide bomber kills 11 at mosque,” 10/16/09
- “Suicide bomb kills 6 at funeral,” 10/6/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “10 civilians wounded in Babel blast,” 10/4/09
- “Blast kills 1, wounds 9 north of Hilla,” 10/18/09
- “Sticky bomb kills 2 women, injures 12 persons in Babel,” 10/21/09
- “Suicide attack leaves 16 casualties in Diala,” 10/13/09
Bernama, “Civilian Killed, 10 Injured In Bomb Attack In Baghdad Snack Restaurant,” 10/19/09
Cordesman, Anthony, "Recent Trends in the Iraq War: Maps and Graphs," Center for Strategic and International Studies, 10/1/09
DPA, “Four policemen killed in Iraq,” 10/17/09
Hammoudi, Laith, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Sunday 18 October 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/18/09
Issa, Sahar, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Thursday 8 October 2009,” McClatchy Newspapers, 10/8/09
ITN, “Clear up after Iraq minibus bombing,” 10/7/09
Kimball, Jack, “Attacks kill 11, wound over 50 people,” Reuters, 10/15/09
McClatchy Newspapers, “Car bombs explode in Baghdad, killing at least 135 people,” 10/25/09
Reuters, “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Oct 11,” 10/11/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Oct 18,” 10/18/09
Shadid, Anthony, “Scores killed, at least 500 wounded in bomb attacks in Baghdad,” 10/25/09
Surk, Barbara, “Bombs kill 6 around Iraq,” Associated Press, 10/20/09
Xinhua, “2 killed, 13 wounded in Baghdad bomb attack,” 10/18/09
- “12 people wounded in bomb explosion in south Baghdad,” 10/21/09
- “Bomb explosion kills 3 south of Baghdad,” 10/8/09
Sunday, October 25, 2009
First, the KDP and PUK have tried to co-opt the Service and Reform List. The list was always a strange mix. On the one hand there were two Islamist groups, the Kurdistan Islamic Union and the Kurdistan Islamic Group, and on the other were the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party and the Future Party. The mixture of religious and secular parties always seemed to be a marriage of convenience. The KDP and PUK have tried to play on these divisions by offering ministries in the Kurdish government in return for them joining the ruling coalition. So far, the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party and its two seats, and the Future Party with one seat are on the verge of joining the KDP and PUK, and the Kurdistan Islamic Group with four seats are in negotiations to do the same. That leaves only the Kurdistan Islamic Union and the Change List as being committed to being in the opposition. Together they have 31 of 111 seats in the Kurdish assembly.
The PUK and KDP are trying to do something similar for the January 2010 national parliamentary elections. The two parties form the Kurdish Alliance in the legislature, and want all the other Kurdish parties to run as one list in the coming vote. They argue that since there are so many unresolved issues between the KRG and Baghdad, the Kurds need to form a united front. The Change List however, said that they will run separately, but are open to working with the Kurdish Alliance after the balloting in parliament.
At the same time, the PUK and KDP are continuing with their intimidation campaign against the Change List. Before the vote, Change supporters were losing their government jobs, during the election there were all kinds irregularities reported, and afterwards the Change List offices in Irbil were attacked, and their followers got into fights in Sulaymaniya. Since then, the Change List is accusing the ruling parties of firing their members in the peshmerga militia and security forces. Teachers have also said that those who voted for the Change List have been let go or demoted as well.
Kurdistan has been ruled by the PUK and KDP since it got its autonomy from Saddam following the 1991 Gulf War. The administration of the KRG has been noted for cronyism, corruption, tribalism, and a lack of transparency. The 2009 Kurdish elections were widely hailed as a transformative vote since it was the first time that the opposition received a sizeable proportion of the vote. The actions of the ruling parties since then however show that they are still thinking the same way. They are still in control, and want to maintain their position by any means whether by buying off the opposition or threatening them.
AK News, “Kurdish involvement in polls: one list vs. numerous lists,” 10/7/09
Hamad, Qassim Khidhir, “kurdish election lists,” Niqash, 6/30/09
Taha, Yaseen, “kurdish opposition splinters,” Niqash, 10/7/09
Tahir, Wrya Hama, “Kurdish Opposition Say Supporters Targeted in Workplace,” Institute for War & Peace Reporting, 10/2/09
Friday, October 23, 2009
There have been other studies on deaths that have used sampling. There was a 2007 World Health Organization and Iraqi government study that reported 151,000 deaths from 2003 to 2005. The Johns Hopkins University and al-Mustansiriya University in Iraq paper published in the medical journal Lancet estimated 601,027 deaths from violence. That study has largely been discredited however, and its members have refused to answer basic questions about their research or share their work with others.
While the actual number of deaths is probably higher than the Human Rights Ministry’s study, it along with other source such as Iraq Body Count, the Iraq Index, and the Associated Press, provide a good starting point for estimating how many have lost their lives during the Iraq War.
Yearly Death Counts
Iraqi Ministry Of Human Rights
Jan.-Oct. 2008: 6,787
Brookings Institution Iraq Index
Jan.-Oct. 2008: 5,740
Iraq Body Count
Jan.-Oct. 2008: 8,211
For an overview of total Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion see:
How Many Have Died In Iraq And By What Means?
BBC, “Iraqi death researcher censured,” 2/4/09
Iraq Body Count
Munro, Neil and Cannon, Carl, “Data Bomb,” National Journal, 1/4/08
O’Hanlon, Michael Campbell, Jason, “Iraq Index,” 9/22/09
Salaheddin, Sinan, “Government says 85,000 Iraqis killed in 2004-08,” Associated Press, 10/14/08
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Overall inflation has not followed the same pattern. In February 2008 it stood at 8.1%, only to drop to -6.3% in June, then rose at the end of the year to 7.6% by October. After that it dropped again to -5.7% in April 2009, and has since gone back up to -0.3% by August.
While of concern, these numbers are nowhere near what inflation was like before. In 2002 it was around 60%. The instability and sectarian violence after the U.S. invasion caused inflation to rise to 65% by 2006. After the Central Bank tightened the money supply, and linked the Iraqi dinar to the U.S. dollar inflation has largely been under control. By 2007 for example, it was down to 12%. Those policies have increased the buying power of the average Iraqi, and any increase in inflation will cut into that.
Iraq’s Inflation/Core Inflation Rate
Department of Defense, “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” March 2008
Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, “Iraq Food Prices Analysis,” August 2009
Reuters, “Iraq inflation rises to 8.11 pct in August,” 9/21/08
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Government,” 7/30/07
- “Quarterly Report and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/09
U.S. Department of State, “Iraq Status Report,” 1/28/09
- “Iraq Status Report,” 6/10/09
- “Iraq Status Report,” 10/7/09
Whitelaw, Kevin, “After The Fall,” U.S. News & World Report, 12/2/02
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
After the January 2009 provincial elections, Maliki’s State of Law List took control of Basra and Najaf. In August 2009, the Basra council outlawed the sale of alcohol. The deputy governor said that this was legal since the constitution bans violations of Islam. There has also been a push to enforce Islamic dress codes, and gender segregation in public spaces in Basra, some of which the State of Law governor has supported. At the beginning of November, Najaf also outlawed alcohol sales and consumption. The council there said that since the city of Najaf contains a holy shrine, it should not have drinking. These moves highlight the differences between the national and local branches of the State of Law List and Dawa Party. Maliki himself may have dropped religious issues from his rhetoric and policies, but that doesn’t mean his party and followers have. The fact that these laws have been enacted in both Najaf, which is known for its religious history, and Basra, home to Iraq’s second largest city, show that Islamic rules could be imposed anywhere under Maliki’s coalition, and that secularism only goes so deep in current Iraqi politics.
Agence France Presse, “Iraq holy Shiite city of Najaf bans alcohol,” 10/10/09
Haugh, Maj. Timothy, “The Sadr II Movement: An Organizational Fight for Legitimacy within the Iraqi Shi’a Community,” Strategic Insights, May 2005
Lawrence, Quil, “Secular, Religious Blocs Jockey For Position In Iraq,” NPR, 10/8/09
Visser, Reidar, “Ahmad al-Sulayti, or, Maliki’s Basra Problem,” Iraq and Gulf Analysis, 9/7/09
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The results of this uneven output has been a financial pinch for the government. Iraq is currently running a $19 billion budget deficit. Since international oil prices have not recovered from the world recession that means Iraq will continue to have these problems next year as well. Baghdad is already in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $5 billion loan to help with its 2010 and 2011 budgets, but the Finance Minister said that it needs $7 billion. The IMF is also calling for cuts in spending. In a speech, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that the Fund wanted a slash in salaries, something Baghdad was not willing to do. The Iraqi government is the largest employer in Iraq, and Maliki claimed 74% of the budget goes to their wages. Elections are scheduled for January 2010, which is probably why the Prime Minister is weary of reducing pay.
Iraq’s oil industry is wracked by political divisions, lax maintenance, deteriorating infrastructure, and lacks foreign investment. Its production has continually fluctuated up and down as a result, and the government has never met its production goals. At the same time, the other parts of the country’s economy have declined since 2003, leaving Iraq more dependent upon oil than ever before. Until the country overcomes its internal divisions, this situation is unlikely to change, and only a full recovery in the international economy and a spurt in oil prices will provide Iraq any financial relief.
2009 Iraqi Oil Production/Exports in Millions of Barrels Per Day
Agence France Presse, “Iraq made ‘good progress’ in IMF loan talks: IMF,” 10/6/09
Associated Press, “Iraq predicts budget crunch for next year,” 9/29/09
Madhani, Aamer, “Iraq’s economy sputters as oil prices drop,” USA Today, 1/28/09
Reuters, “Iraq PM Says Cannot Cut Public Pay To Suit IMF,” 10/7/09
U.S. Department of State, “Iraq Status Report,” 10/7/09
Zawya, “Iraq Central Bank Opposes Issuing Treasury Bills To Finance Projects,” 9/27/09
Now, in the beginning of October Iraq has announced that it is officially restarting the census. The government has one year to complete the task, and it is starting right where the controversy began, Ninewa and Tamim, as well as the three Kurdish provinces of Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniya. The main difference between the first census date, and the new one is that it will now finish after the January 2010 parliamentary election. Iraqi politicians worried that the census would cause trouble in the run-up to the vote, and now don’t have to worry about that for the short term. When the results are announced however that could be another story.
Alsumaria, “Iraq prepares for census,” 10/5/09
Reuters, “Citing Tensions, Iraq Abandons Census Plans,” 8/16/09
Monday, October 19, 2009
The Brookings Institution recently updated their Iraq Index in mid-September 2009. The newest edition includes updated monthly death statistics. At first, Brookings relied upon several sources, including their own analysis of Iraq Body Count's statistics, and the United Nations. Currently, they use U.S. government numbers based upon occasional briefings and reports by the State and Defense Departments. These come in the form of charts, which Brookings then interprets. That's the reason why the numbers are rounded to the nearest tens.
The Iraq Index figures are presented alongside the other major sources on casualties, Iraq Body Count, icasualties.org, the Iraqi Ministries, and the Associated Press. All five sources follow the same general pattern. First, 2009 has not been as deadly as 2008. According to Brookings there were an average of 386.6 deaths per month in the last six months of 2008 compared to 276.6 deaths per month in the first half of this year. If looked at in quarters, Brookings, and the other counts all go up and down over the last five quarters. The Iraq Index shows a decline from an average of 450.0 deaths in the third quarter of 2008, to 323.3 in the fourth quarter, and 253.3 in the first three months of 2009, before deaths go back up to 300.0 in the second quarter. Brookings does not have statistics for September 2009, but the other sources show deaths going down in the third quarter of the year compared to the second.
Iraq Body Count
3rd Qtr. 2008
2nd Qtr. 2009
3rd Qtr. 2009
Last 6 months of 2008
First 6 months of 2009
Associated Press, “Iraq: Key figures since the war began,” 11/3/08
- “Iraq: Key figures since the war began,” 1/2/09
- “Iraq: Key figures since the war began,” 10/1/09
Gamel, Kim, “U.S. monthly toll new low for Iraq,” Associated Press, 8/1/08
O’Hanlon, Michael Campbell, Jason, “Iraq Index,” 9/22/09
Sunday, October 18, 2009
The opening of exports from the KRG was seen as a symbolic victory for the Kurds in their long-running dispute with Baghdad over who has control of oil contracts, and exploitation of petroleum fields. It was a short lived victory, as the regional government never had the ability to compensate the companies doing the work. The KRG’s over reaction to the DNO stock investigation did not help the situation, and now the foreign sales have ended, and are not likely to resume as the KRG and the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can agree upon little.
DNO International ASA, Letter To Minister of Natural Resources, Kurdistan Regional Government, 10/5/09
Reuters, “Iraq Kurdistan denies wrongdoing in DNO affair,” 10/9/09
Friday, October 16, 2009
When debate first began on what kind of system was to be adopted for 2010, reports said that many politicians were pushing for a closed list. Those included members of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), and the two ruling Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was an early opponent.
The entire discussion changed at the beginning of October 2009 when a false story was spread about Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the voting system. On October 5, it was reported that Ayatollah Sistani would urge a boycott of the 2010 election if parliament did not adopt an open list. That story was quickly denied by Sistani’s office, and Maliki was accused of spreading the rumor since so many of his opponents were for the closed list. The report had its affect however, as almost all of Iraq’s leading politicians and parties have now publicly come out for the open list. On October 6, the Sadrists said they would hold a walk out if parliament held a vote on a closed list. The next day, Vice Presidents Adel Abd Mahdi of the Supreme Council and Tariq al-Hashemi, formerly of the Iraqi Islamic Party, held a joint press conference where they too said they supported an open list. The day after that, the head of the SIIC, Ammar al-Hakim, also came out against the closed list. Finally, on October 10, the Constitution Part of Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, held a demonstration in Basra in support of Sistani’s call for an open list.
If Maliki’s office did spread the false rumor about Sistani and a boycott, then it served its purpose. Most of the major Arab leaders in Iraq are now talking about an open list system. It’s yet to be seen whether this is all just rhetoric or a real sea change in Iraqi politics. The truth will be revealed when parliament passed a new election bill.
Alsumaria, “Sadrists firmly reject closed list system,” 10/7/09
- “Sistani aide: Closed list affects democracy,” 10/7/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “Elections draft law completed without agreeing on Kirkuk – MP,” 7/15/09
- “Iraqi Constitutional Party demonstrates for open-slate election,” 10/10/09
- “National blocs want to adopt closed-list system during elections,” 7/3/09
- “Sadrists threaten to walk out of session if vote on closed-list system is held,” 10/6/09
- “SIIC chief asserts adopting open-list system in elections,” 10/8/09
- “Sistani denies boycotting elections in case adopting close-list system,” 10/5/09
- “Vice presidents stress importance of adopting open-list system,” 10/7/09
Gwertzman, Bernard, “Iraq at Crossroads Amid U.S. Disengagement,” Council on Foreign Relations, 6/30/09
Pollack, Kenneth, “The Battle for Baghdad,” The National Interest, September/October 2009
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Iraqi Election Commission Urges Vote Law’s Approval,” 10/7/09
Roads To Iraq, “Election conflict puts Sistani in the middle,” 10/6/09
Synovitz, Ron, “Kurdish-Arab Power Struggle Leads To Calls For Iraq Census Delay,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 8/30/09
Zahra, Hassan Abdul, “Iraq’s top Shiite cleric may urge vote boycott,” Agence France Presse, 10/5/09
Thursday, October 15, 2009
At the beginning of October 2009, Iraq’s Oil Ministry warned China’s Sinopec that it would be banned from all future oil deals unless it ceased its plan to buy a company currently exporting oil from Kurdistan. Sinopec is one of the largest Chinese energy companies. In June 2009 it was reported that it was interested in entering the Kurdish oil market. By the end of that month, they had made a $7.22 billion offer to buy Addax Petroleum, a Swiss-Canadian company that was operating in the Taq Taq field near Irbil city in Kurdistan. If confirmed, it would be the largest take over of a foreign oil company by China. At the same time, Sinopec participated in the first oil bidding round held by Baghdad at the end of June. The Oil Ministry accepted none of Sinopec’s offers however, but it still wanted to take part in the second round of bidding at the end of this year as well. In August, the Oil Ministry made its first warning to Sinopec that if it went ahead with the purchase of Addax it would be blacklisted according to Radio Nawa. Now, Baghdad has threatened to ban Sinopec from the second bidding round.
The Oil Ministry has also singled out South Korea’s SK Energy this month. SK is South Korea’s largest oil refiner, and in November 2007 it joined a consortium operating in Kurdistan. By January 2008 they had been blacklisted by Baghdad as a result, and were banned from buying Iraqi crude. In November, SK said that they would not invest any more money into the venture, and the next month Iraq started selling them oil again. Now the Ministry is not sure whether SK has withdrawn from that Kurdish deal or not. If SK doesn’t clear up the matter, it will be put back on the blacklist.
The Oil Ministry’s threats towards Sinopec and SK Energy are part of its larger dispute with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The two sides have argued over who has the authority to sign oil contracts, and develop petroleum fields. The KRG believes they can do that on their own, while Baghdad demands that all such dealings go through the Oil Ministry. Blacklisting companies that operate in Kurdistan is a way for the central government to pressure both the KRG and the corporations doing business there. So far, Baghdad has the slight upper hand.
Abbas, Mohammed, “Iraq Central Gov’t, Kurdistan Agree Oil Exports (UPDATE 2),” Reuters, 11/28/08
Agence France Presse, “Chinese oil firms may bid for Iraqi oil fields,” Agence France Presse, 7/7/09
Bradsher, Keith, “As Iraq Stabilizes, China Eyes Its Oil Fields,” New York Times, 6/30/09
Carey, Glen, “Iraq to Start Oil Exports to South Korea’s SK Energy in January,” Bloomberg, 12/24/08
Hoyos, Carola, Warrell, Helen, and Bernard, Steve, “Crude Competition,” Financial Times, 6/30/09
Lando, Ben, “Blacklist enlarged and challenged,” Iraq Oil Report, 10/1/09
Radio Nawa, “The Ministry of Oil announces not to deal with any oil company signed contracts with the Kurdistan Regional Government,” 8/24/09
Salaheddin, Sinan, “Iraq to resume oil sales to South Korean firm SK,” Associated Press, 12/6/08
Webb, Tim, “Oil giants find scramble for Iraq is a game with complex rules,” Observer, 10/19/08
Wighton, David, “Can oil bring peace to the Kurdish region?” Times of London, 6/16/09
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Mosul, Iraq's third largest city and second most violent in the country, saw a slight drop in the number of dead and wounded in September 2009. While deaths have gone up and down each month in Iraq overall, violence has basically stayed the same in Mosul. In September there were an average of 2.40 attacks/security incidents per day, compared to 2.48 in August. The real difference was in the casualty counts. There were an average of 2.16 deaths per day last month and 2.00 wounded. In August there were averages of 3.29 deaths and 5.51 wounded each day. September had the lowest deaths since June 2009 when there were an average of 1.93 per day. It also had the lowest wounded count since this blog started following the issue late last year.
Looked at in the long term, there has been a definite pattern over the last four quarters. In the last three months of 2008 there were an average of 2.41 incidents a day, resulting in 2.53 deaths. The average number of attacks has stayed relatively constant since then, but the average number of deaths dipped to 2.03 in the first quarter of 2009, and 1.92 in the second. Only in the third quarter have deaths gone back up to 2.67 per day, largely due to the 102 killed in August. The averages for the number wounded went up and down from 6.71 per day in the last quarter of 2008, to 4.05 in the first quarter of 2009, to 5.25 in the second quarter, to 4.34 per day in the third quarter of this year.
The constant fatalities in the city have led Baghdad to launch its latest security operation in the city called Ninewa Wall on October 1. It's the fourth since 2008, and the first to not include American forces. None of the previous ones has had much of an effect upon casualties in Mosul however. By October 5, more than 200 suspects had been picked up.The provincial council has complained about the operation, saying that they were not informed of it beforehand. A member of the council also said that many of those that have been picked up had no criminal records.
Mosul and Ninewa in general, remain unstable for several reasons. First, insurgents were pushed there during the Surge. Second, it is along one of the main thoroughfares for foreign fighters and money coming from Syria to enter Iraq. Third, the argument between Arabs and Kurds over disputed areas in the province has only increased in recent years. Fourth, Kurdish peshmerga forces occupy part of Mosul and northern regions of Ninewa, to the consternation of many Arabs who consider them occupiers and expansionists. This has allowed the insurgents to portray themselves as protectors of the local Arabs against the Kurds' ambitions, and to take advantage of the security gaps that exist in the city and province between Iraqi and Kurdish troops. Because of all these issues, Mosul is likely to remain unstable for the foreseeable future.
Attack Statistics In Mosul Based Upon Press Reports Attacks/ Incidents Avg. # Of Attacks/ Incidents Deaths Avg. # Of Deaths Wounded Avg. # Of Wounded 2008 Oct. 92 2.96 112 3.61 188 6.06 Nov. 65 2.16 53 1.76 249 8.3 Dec. 65 2.09 68 2.19 181 5.83 2009 Jan. 52 1.67 56 1.80 56 2.74 Feb. 81 2.89 58 2.00 111 3.96 March 86 2.77 69 2.22 169 5.45 April 79 2.63 53 1.76 191 6.36 May 83 3.06 64 2.06 164 4.70 June 73 2.43 58 1.93 123 4.10 July 73 2.35 79 2.54 169 5.45 Aug. 77 2.48 102 3.29 171 5.51 Sep. 72 2.40 65 2.16 60 2.00 2008 4th Quarter Avg. 74.00/ month 2.41/day 77.66/ month 2.53/ day 206.00/ month 6.71/day 2009 1st Quarter Avg. 73.00/ month 2.43/day 61.00/ month 2.03/ day 121.66/ month 4.05/day 2009 2nd Quarter Avg. 78.30/ month 2.58/day 58.30/ month 1.92/ day 159.33/ month 5.25/day 2009 3rd Quarter Avg. 74.00/ month 2.41/day 82.00/ month 2.67/ day 133.33/ month 4.34/day
Avg. # Of Attacks/ Incidents
Avg. # Of Deaths
Avg. # Of Wounded
2008 4th Quarter Avg.
2009 1st Quarter Avg.
2009 2nd Quarter Avg.
2009 3rd Quarter Avg.
Agence France Presse, “Iraq policeman, soldier killed in north,” 9/23/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “2 civilians wounded by sticky bomb in Mosul,” 9/8/09
- “2 IEDs wound soldiers, civilian in Mosul,” 9/2/09
- “4 civilians killed, wounded in Mosul blast,” 9/23/09
- “Blast kills policeman, wounds another in Mosul,” 9/23/09
- “Body found in Mosul,” 9/17/09
- “Bomb targets house of college professor in Mosul,” 9/30/09
- “Car mechanic shot down in Mosul,” 9/2/09
- “Civilian wounded in IED blast in Mosul,” 9/27/09
- “Cop killed, 3 injured in Mosul,” 9/29/09
- “Cop, sons killed, wounded in Ninewa blast,” 9/7/09
- “Disabled policeman injured in eastern Mosul,” 9/28/09
- “Girl, her mother wounded in Mosul,” 9/2/09
- “Gunmen cops killed in clashes with U.S. forces in Mosul,” 9/14/09
- “Gunmen kill former policeman in Mosul,” 9/16/09
- “Gunmen killed while attempting to shoot down traffic cop,” 9/9/09
- “Gunmen shoot down civilian in Mosul,” 9/5/09
- “Gunmen storm mosque, kill 2 prayers in Mosul,” 9/1/09
- “Gunmen wound traffic cop in Mosul,” 9/15/09
- “IED blast kills child, wounds 2 in Mosul,” 9/19/09
- “IED blast targets Ninewa judge’s house,” 9/25/09
- “IED kills, wounds 4 cops in Mosul,” 9/28/09
- “IED wounds 3 soldiers in Mosul,” 9/8/09
- “IED wounds soldier, civilian in Mosul,” 9/16/09
- “Iraqi soldier gunned down in northern Mosul,” 9/14/09
- “Iraqi soldier killed in central Mosul,” 9/19/09
- “Iraqi soldier killed in eastern Mosul,” 9/8/09
- “NOC: Fresh security operations in Mosul,” 10/4/09
- “Officer killed, 7 cops wounded in Mosul blast,” 9/14/09
- “Over 200 arrested under Mosul’s fresh security operations,” 10/5/09
- “Police find body in eastern Mosul,” 9/23/09
- “Policeman killed, child wounded in Ninewa,” 9/3/09
- “Policeman killed in Mosul attack,” 9/6/09
- “Sticky bomb kills army officer, wounds 2 civilians in Mosul,” 9/9/09
- “Traffic cop killed in Mosul blast,” 9/12/09
- “Woman killed, daughter wounded by IED in Mosul,” 9/14/09
DPA, “Report: Four Kurdish militiamen found executed in northern Iraq,” 9/28/09
Al Dulaimy, Mohammed, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq-Thursday 03 September 2009,” 9/3/09
Griffiths, Kathie, “Bradford-based relief agency worker killed,” Telegraph & Argus, 9/11/09
Hammoudi, Laith, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Sunday 6 September 2009,” 9/6/09
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Sunday 27 September 2009,” 9/27/09
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Tuesday 1 September 2009,” 9/1/09
Issa, Sahar, “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Friday 4 September 2009,” 9/4/09
- “Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Wednesday 23 September 2009,” 9/23/09
Reuters, “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 6,” 9/6/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 8,” 9/8/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 12,” 9/12/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 13,” 9/13/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 17,” 9/17/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 24,” 9/24/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 25,” 9/25/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 26,” 9/26/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 27,” 9/27/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 28,” 9/28/09
- “FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Sep 30,” 9/30/09
Rising, David, “Bombs at Shiite shrine kill 4 Iraqis,” Associated Press, 9/13/09
Williams, Timothy, “U.S. surveillance drone crashes in Iraq,” New York Times, 9/27/09