Monday, January 29, 2007

Updated Cordesman reports on Iraq War available

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has consistently been one of the most reliable sources of description and analysis on the Iraq War. This is unusual, because Cordesman is a war supporter, yet he hasn't given in to the excessive optimism or tendency to dismiss unfavorable indicators that so many others have fallen prey to. I do wonder at this point how he can continue to see any hope at all, given the situations he describes in his reports.

He continually updates various papers on the war at the CSIS Web site. The two latest available are as follows, with brief excerpts from each:

Iraq’s Sectarian and Ethnic Violence and the Evolving Insurgency 01/29/07:

Killing and casualties are only part of this story. The map of sectarian and ethnic violence is far broader than the major incidents of violence reported by the MNF-I and Iraqi government. There are no accurate or reliable counts of such dead and wounded because they cannot be counted with any reliability even in the Baghdad area. However, a count kept by the Associated Press estimated that 13,738 Iraqis – civilians and security forces - died violently in 2006. The UN reported that 34,452 Iraqi civilians died in 2006. Groups like Iraq Body Count reported that a total of roughly 56,000 Iraqis civilians died since 2003. At the extremes, a Lancet study based on a highly uncertain methodology and sampling method estimated that 650,000 Iraqis have died since 2003.
The Lancet survey may be "extreme" in the reported counts. But its methodology seems to be solid.

Tragic as such estimates are, other forms of “cleansing” have become at least as important as major overt acts of violence. Shi’ites and Sunnis, and Arabs and Kurds, seek to dominate the other side or push the weaker side out of areas where they have the majority or have superior power. These forms of “soft” ethnic cleansing include threats, physical intimidation, blackmail, seizure of property, raids on homes and businesses, use of checkpoints to push other factions out, kidnappings and extortion, misuse of government offices and police, and disappearances.

Maps of Baghdad and other major cities with mixed populations show a steady separation of the population on sectarian and ethnic lines, and reflect the efforts of the dominant side to push the other out or exclude it. Another measure of the level of conflict which goes beyond the data on killings is the number of refugees. At the end of 2006, the UN reported that there were 1.7 million internally displaced Iraqis since 2003, with an average of 45,000 Iraqis leaving their homes every month.
Iraq's Evolving Insurgency and the Risk of Civil War 01/26/07:

The end result is the blurring of lines between insurgency and civil war, and all sides are to some extent guilty of terrorism. The fighting in Iraq has evolved over time in ways that increase the risk of intense or full-scale civil war. It is now driven by sectarian and ethnic struggles, rather than national movements and causes, and in some cases by internal struggles for power within the same sect, which is the case of the Shi'ites in Basra. In other cases, like Kirkuk, the struggle is between Kurds, and other minorities, with little role by the Sunni insurgents.
Reconstruction in Iraq: The Uncertain Way Ahead 01/19/07:

The de facto deterioration of Iraq’s petroleum sector has reached the point where action is becoming increasingly urgent simply to maintain current production, along with efforts to limit the growth of domestic demand and reduce product imports. A coherent plan for energy sector rehabilitation and development is critical to any Iraqi ability to become self-financing, as well as to provide government funds as incentives for conciliation and coexistence. The same is true to both creating suitable refinery capacity and removing subsidies from petroleum products that create massive demand growth and act as incentive for theft and black market activities.

The deterioration of the critical health and education sectors because of fighting, poor aid programs and sustained underinvestment, needs to be readdressed from the ground up.
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