Saturday, May 8, 2010

Election Controversy In Iraq Does Not Have Affect On Violence


In April 2010, the four groups that track monthly deaths in Iraq, Iraqi Body Count, icasualties.org, Iraq's ministries, and the Associated Press once again had divergent patterns for the second month in a row. Since January 2009 all four followed the same general trend of deaths going up and down each month, although the actual numbers between them varied. Icasualties and the Associated Press have continued on with that pattern into 2010. The Associated Press for example found 383 deaths in December 2009, 177 in January 2010, 255 in February, 230 in March, and 321 in April. Iraq's ministries had two months of deaths going up in 2010 with 196 in January, 352 in February, 367 in March, before dropping to 328 in April. Iraq Body Count on the other hand, saw deaths go up since the beginning of the year with 258 in January, 296 in February, 311 in March, and finally 364 last month.

Despite these differences, average deaths have not changed, and casualties have dropped overall with time. The average killed per day has stuck with the up and down pattern. 6.1 died a day in January 2010, 10.1 in February, 8.7 in March, and 10.6 in April. Iraq Body Count, icasualties, and the Associated Press also saw monthly average deaths for the first four months of 2010 go down from the previous four months, while Iraq's ministries showed an increase for that period. Iraq Body Count for instance, had 333.2 deaths from September to December 2009, compared to 307.2 from January to April 2010. Iraq's ministries reported an average of 275.5 dead per month in the last third of 2009, and 310.7 deaths in the beginning of this year.

What hasn't changed is the casualties from mass casualty bombings. The number of dead and wounded from such attacks has continued to go up and down each month. In January 2010 there were 10 such bombings causing 100 deaths and 407 wounded. That was followed by 11 bombings in February with 160 deaths and 492 wounded, 12 attacks in March with 142 deaths and 314 wounded, and finally 11 bombings in April leading to 172 deaths and 460 wounded.

Overall, the most important piece of information conveyed by the monthly counts is that the 2010 elections have not affected deaths in Iraq. It's been eight weeks since the March vote, and politicians are no closer to forming a ruling coalition. Many commentators were worried that the political limbo could lead to increased violence as the different factions battle it out for power. That has not happened. Even Iraq Body Count that had three consecutive months of deaths going up did not have numbers markedly different from the previous period. Despite some high profile bombings in April, Al Qaeda in Iraq faced some crippling loses with the deaths of their top two leaders, and the capture of their governor in Baghdad and their commander for northern Iraq. That could decrease attacks overall in the long-run as the Islamist group has been on the decline since 2005, and probably doesn't have the resources to fill its loses right now. Even before that Iraq has seen the fewest deaths and attacks beginning in 2009 since the U.S. invasion, and that does not appear to be changing anytime soon.

Monthly Death Counts
Month Iraq
Body
Count 
Icasualties Iraqi
Ministries
Associated
Press 
Avg.
Deaths
Per Day 
Jul. 09 
395 
240 
275 
309 
9.8 
Aug. 
585 
439 
456 
425 
15.3 
Sep. 
298 
158 
203 
238 
7.4 
Oct. 
404 
320 
410 
364 
12.0 
Nov.  
205 
106 
122 
93 
4.3 
Dec. 
426 
287 
367 
383 
11.7 
Jan. 10 
258 
135 
196 
177 
6.1 
Feb. 
296 
236 
352 
255 
10.1
Mar. 
311 
183 
367 
230 
8.7 
Apr. 
364 
259 
328 
321 
10.6 
Avg.
Last 4
Months
2009 
333.2 
217.7 
275.5 
269.5 
10.2 
Avg. 1st
4 Months
2010 
307.2 
203.2 
310.7 
245.7 
8.8 

Mass Casualty Bombings
Months BombingsDeathsWounded
Sep. 09 13 70 263 
Oct. 22 241 887 
Nov.10 43 136 
Dec.  25 246 851 
Jan. 10 10 100 407 
Feb. 11 160 492 
Mar. 12 142 314 
Apr. 11 172 460 


SOURCES

Agence France Presse, "Iraq death toll in April almost same as last year," 5/1/10

Associated Press, "Iraq: Key figures since the war began," 5/3/10

Aswat al-Iraq, "2 car bombs kill 5, injure 17 in Baghdad," 4/28/10
- "9 killed, 10 wounded in blasts in Ramadi," 4/23/10
- "24 killed, injured in Mosul suicide attack," 4/12/10
- "Baghdad blasts casualties up to 234," 4/23/10
- "Baghdad blasts toll reaches 35 dead, 140 wounded," 4/6/10
- "Baghdad's toll reaches 30 dead, 168 wounded persons," 4/4/10
- "Blast in Baghdad kills 8, wounds 20," 4/29/10
- "Casualties from Mosul blast reach 40," 4/4/10

Concord Monitor, "6 killed by blasts in western Baghdad," 4/25/10

Fordham, Alice, "At least 41 killed as triple car bomb hits Baghdad," Times of London, 4/5/10

icasualties.org

Iraq Body Count

Issa, Sahar, "Round-up of Daily Violence in Iraq – Thursday 15 April 2010," 4/15/10

Reuters, "FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, April 21," 4/21/10
- "Iraq civilian death toll rises sharply in April," 5/1/10

Times of London, "Homemade bombs kill 39 in Baghdad," 4/6/10

6 comments:

Don Cox said...

For comparison, are there any figures for deaths in traffic accidents in Iraq?

Joel Wing said...

No they dont release those types of figures.

What I can give you is a comparison of is Iraq to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has a population of roughly 28 mil, Iraq 30 mil.

According to the Brookings' Afghan Index there were an avg. of 200-250 attacks per week in 2008

According to the Brookings' Iraq Index there were an avg. of 700 attacks per week in the beginning of 2008 that eventually declined to 300. In 2009 there are an avg. of 200 attacks per week.

Iraq still has the more terrorist attacks than any other country in the world.

In Afghanistan in 2008 there were 1445 civilian deaths according to Brookings.

In Iraq in 2008 there were between 5929-9226 killed between the 5 major organizations that track casualties.

In 2009 there were between 3119-4684.

So Iraq at its lowest levels of violence has about the same number of attacks as Afghanistan where they are going up, and twice the number of deaths.

Don Cox said...

Interesting comparisons. Thanks.

Joel Wing said...

The security situation in the countries are actually pretty different. In Afghanistan you have a strong insurgency that controls territory, and while not a threat to the government in Kabul is a threat to governance. In Iraq on the other hand, the insurgency is fading, holds no land, and has lost the support of the general public. Yet despite those differences, in terms of straight violence, Iraq is still more dangerous than Afghanistan. Unfortunately thats likely to be true for the short-term at least.

AndrewSshi said...

I'm wondering why Iraq seems to be stuck at this particular level of violence. The bad guys can generally do one or two spectacular big-a*s assaults a month. I'll grant that that's better than when we had a bombing plus thirty corpses turning up per day, but shouldn't AQI's operational capability eventually degrade to the point where they're not able to pull off operations like today's? I mean, ISF have caught the occasional massive attack "left of boom," but there's still too much getting through.

(But then part of that might be that they still rely too much on beating confessions out of people rather than genuine forensics).

Joel Wing said...

Some generals and Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies has called it the "irreducible minimum" meaning unless there is another dramatic change in the political situation, the security situation in Iraq is not going to change.

Basically what you see today is the result of five events that started in 2005. First the Anbar tribes turned on Al Qaeda in 2005. Then most of the insurgency switched sides during the Surge to become the Sons of Iraq, third Sadr's cease-fire and U.S. and Maliki's operations against them in 2008 dispersed the Shiite militias, fourth Iran began focusing upon politics more than militancy to focus upon the 2009 elections, which finally had large Sunni participation. That's why attacks and deaths dropped to their lowest level in 2009, and have stayed that way until today.

Since then however, there has been no more changes, hence no more reduction in violence. I really think in 5 years or so Al Qaeda will be out of Iraq. After the U.S. is out they will just not have an ideological reason to be there anymore and will go onto some other country. That still leads the homegrown insurgency. The Baathists could eventually fade as well to irrelevancy, but there are still others, especially because the Arab-Kurd divide still exists, which is why there is still violence in Mosul and Ninewa. Until that dynamic changes, we're probably stuck at the current levels of attacks and deaths.

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