The Pentagon’s new report on “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq” was widely covered by the press. Many of the newspaper articles described what the report stated about the increase in violence in Iraq (summarized by the reported 22 percent increase in weekly attacks) and continuing efforts to train Iraqi security forces (and the ongoing frustrations, such as absenteeism as high as 50 percent when units are ordered to combat outside their domestic areas).
However, most articles did not address other deteriorating conditions in a region that is becoming less a nation-state and more a locus for ethnic, religious, criminal, and political conflict. That other data in the report gives the reader a sense of what life for Iraqi citizens is like these days. Consider, for example, the following from the DOD report:
The victims of the increasing attacks are mostly Iraqi civilians, not “coalition” (U.S.) military personnel.
Corruption and drug trafficking are increasing.
“Runaway inflation” has grown 53 percent over the past year.
Official estimates of unemployment range from 13 to 18 percent, but those data are understood to significantly understate the problem.
Electrical power generation is approximately half of demand. It is worse in Baghdad where civilians get power only 6 to 7 hours per day.
The government does not know how much clean water is delivered to Iraqis.
Civilians suffering from malnutrition range from 14 to 26 percent, depending on the province.
The numbers of refugees fleeing the violence are immense: 700,000 have fled to Jordan; 600,000 to Syria; 100,000 to Egypt; 40,000 to Lebanon, and 54,000 to Iran. Over 3,000 refugees per day are now appearing in Syria and Jordan.
In the last 10 months, 460,000 Iraqis have become “internally displaced” as they flee regional violence or are ethnically “cleansed.”
Personal loyalties, such as tribal, sectarian, or political, are growing stronger than to Iraq as a nation.
The civilian population is losing confidence in the ability of the Iraq government to address security problems. In August 2006, 47 percent of the population had confidence in the ability of the government to protect citizens; by October 2006, that had declined to 36 percent. Significantly, much of the decline is occurring in the Shiite regions of the south of the country that comprises 80 percent of the total population.
Sixty percent of the population believes overall conditions are worsening: i.e. that the next DOD report will be worse.
Meanwhile, the newspapers are also reporting that the White House, and some in Congress, are contemplating a temporary “surge” in U.S. military deployments, numbering somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000. Perhaps more significantly, a major target of these deployments might be the Mahdi Army, the largest Shiite sectarian militia led by Muqtada al-Sadr, who controls a significant faction in the Iraqi national legislature and who is one of the most politically popular figures in Iraq.
If so, conditions are not about to improve in Iraq; the 60 percent of the Iraqi population who believe they have not yet seen the worst appear to be prescient.
WINSLOW T. WHEELER is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information and author of The Wastrels of Defense. Over 31 years, he worked for US Senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office on national security issues. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.