Friday, July 8, 2011

Violence In Iraq Picks Up As Summer Approaches

Violence in Iraq is currently following a seasonal pattern, and that’s shown in the number of attacks and deaths each month. During the winter, militants have reduced their operations and casualties have gone down, while in the summer, the pace picks up, and so do the death counts. That has meant for the last three months the number of security incidents and people killed have steadily climbed upward.

In June 2011, the three sources for Iraqi deaths showed different trends. Iraq Body Count had 371 deaths, Iraq’s ministries had 271, while icasualties had 204. The first two showed increases from the previous month, while the last went down. On its website, icasualties notes that the actual number of deaths in Iraq are much higher than what they report, and that’s because they only rely upon western sources, which misses dozens of deaths each month. That accounts for the consistently low numbers provided by the group, and its different pattern from the other two. All together, June saw an average of 282 deaths, and 9.4 killed per day. That was up from 8.1 in May, and 7.1 in April

Monthly Iraqi Death Counts And Averages Jun. 09 – Jun. 11

Month
Iraq Body Count
Icasualties
Iraqi Ministries
Avg. Monthly Deaths
Avg. Daily Deaths
Jun. 09
491
367
438
432
13.9
Jul.
394
240
275
303
9.7
Aug.
586
439
456
493
15.9
Sep.
300
158
203
220
7.3
Oct.
404
320
410
378
12.1
Nov.
206
106
122
144
4.8
Dec.
457
287
367
370
11.9
Jan. 10
260
135
196
197
6.3
Feb.
297
236
352
295
10.5
Mar.
334
183
367
294
9.5
Apr.
380
259
328
322
10.7
May
377
279
337
331
10.6
Jun.
368
176
284
276
9.2
Jul.
430
534
535
499
16.1
Aug.
517
363
426
435
14.0
Sep.
252
174
273
233
7.7
Oct.
311
185
293
263
8.4
Nov.
302
174
171
215
7.1
Dec.
217
128
151
165
5.3
Jan. 11
387
210
259
285
9.2
Feb.
250
216
167
212
7.5
Mar.
307
171
247
241
7.7
Apr.
285
152
211
214
7.1
May
378
223
177
252
8.1
Jun.
371
204
271
282
9.4

If you look back to the beginning of 2010, a definite pattern emerges for Iraq’s casualties. From January to June, the average number of deaths per day was relatively flat. They started at 6.3 in January, than went up to10.5 in February, before leveling off at 9.5 in March, 10.7 in April, 10.6 in May, and 9.2 in June. In July and August however, deaths spiked to 16.1 for the former and 14.0 in the latter, before going back down to 5.3 in December. 2011 has followed the same trend. In January, there were 9.2 deaths per day, then hitting a plateau at 7.5 in February, 7.2 in March, and 7.1 in April, before slightly going up to 8.1 in May, and 9.4 in June. This up and down pattern follows the seasons with fewer deaths in the winter and higher counts in the spring and summer.
The number of average deaths also mirrors attacks in Iraq. According to estimates based upon charts provided by AKE, a British security firm that operates within the country, which are published in Iraq Business News, militant operations have also gone up and down with the seasons. In the first week of June 2010 for example, there were around 92 attacks. They then went up and down, before steadily declining with 75 in the first week of October, to 65 in November, to 58 in December, and then 30 at the beginning of January 2011. Since then, security incidents have gone up as the temperature has gotten warmer and warmer. At the start of February there were around 41 attacks, 55 in March, 52 in April, 70 in May, and approximately 95 in the opening week of June.
This is a decided change from 2009, which had a monthly ebb and flow. For the twelve months of that year, casualties went up and down every month. For instance, in June 2009 there were an average of 13.9 deaths per day, then 9.7 in July, 15.9 in August, 7.3 in September, 12.1 in October, 4.8 in November, and 11.9 in December.

The reasons for the change in deaths then, has to be related to something other than the weather if 2009 is compared to 2010-2011. Perhaps the cause is due to a weakening of the insurgency, and an increase in Special Group activity. In 2009-2010, almost all of the violence in Iraq was due to Sunni militants. In that first year, they obviously had more capabilities as they were able to pull off larger and more deadly operations every other month, hence the up and down pattern. Starting in 2010 however, they appeared to have lost some of their power. 2011 has been different because Iranian-supported Special Groups have dramatically increased their attacks since the spring to coincide with American pressure on Baghdad to allow a troop extension past the December 31 withdrawal deadline. That is probably the reason why security incidents have steadily increased this year, and casualties along with them. Although the Special Groups concentrate upon American bases and patrols, there is always the chance for collateral damage. Shiite militants can be expected to keep up their pace of operations until the fate of American forces are finally decided upon by Iraq’s politicians. After that, casualties may actually go down as Iran cuts off their supplies to their Iraqi friends, and a weakened insurgency takes back responsibility for most attacks. Despite all these ups and downs, violence is still at its lowest levels in Iraq, and will hopefully remain so for the foreseeable future.

SOURCES

Alsumaria, “Iraq death toll rises to 271 killed in June,” 7/1/11

Drake, John, “Weekly Security Update for 2nd Dec 2010,” 12/2/10
- “Weekly Security Update for 15th December 2010,” Iraq Business News, 12/15/10
- “Weekly Security Update for 30th of June 2011,” Iraq Business News, 6/30/11

icasualties, “Operation Iraqi Freedom”

Iraq Body Count, “Recent Events”

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