Monday, February 6, 2012

January 2012 Security Statistics Undermine Case That Iraq Heading Towards New Civil War


January 2012 has just come to an end, and the early numbers for deaths and attacks in Iraq have been released. Despite all the press about a new sectarian war, the statistics show that there was an increase in casualties last month, but they were close to figures seen in 2011. Insurgents were obviously trying to send a message after the departure of U.S. forces in December, but the Shiite pilgrimage of Arbayeen also provided a plethora of targets. In previous years, militants have only been able to keep up this level of activity for a month or two, and then they have had to re-group and re-arm. That points to January being a continuation of past trends in security, rather than a sign that Iraq will have a renewed civil conflict.

Two of the three organizations that maintain monthly death counts for Iraq showed increases in January 2012. Iraq Body Count’s early total was 458 killed, up from 371 in December 2011. The United Nations had 500 deaths, compared to 313 the previous month. Iraq’s ministries however, only counted 151 deaths, down from 155 in December. Baghdad has consistently had the lowest casualty figures over the last several months. With Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki running both the Interior and Defense Ministries since the new government was put together in December 2011, there’s growing evidence that the numbers are being kept down for political reasons. How else could one explain death figures going down when there were more mass casualty bombings in January than December?

January saw an increase in casualties, because of three deadly days. First, on January 5, a suicide bomber detonated his device amongst Shiite pilgrims in the town of Batha in Dhi Qar province, killing a total of 45 people. They were heading for Karbala during Arbayeen, which commemorates the death of the Imam Hussein Ibn Ali. That same day, a car bomb killed 15 in the Kadhimiya district of northwest Baghdad, and another 13 day workers died as a result of a motorcycle bomb in Sadr City, northeastern Baghdad. Then on January 14, 64 were killed by a suicide bomber in Zubayr, Basra province as they were going to the Khatwa mosque. Khatwa is a popular destination for people in southern Iraq who cannot make the trip to Karbala. Finally, on January 27, there were 28 casualties when a car bomb exploded near a hospital in Zafaraniya, southeastern Baghdad. It’s mass casualty bombings like these that raise the total death count for any given month above the average. Since January was the occasion of Arbayeen there were thousands upon thousands of Shiite pilgrims taking the bus and even walking across the entire width of the country to get to Karbala or other alternative sites like the Khatwa mosque. That provided a huge number of targets, which insurgents have taken advantage of every year, and that was the reason why deaths increased from December to January.

Deadliest Days In January 2012
Jan. 5 – 77 killed total
    - 28 killed in Baghdad
    - 45 killed in Dhi Qar
Jan. 14 – 68 killed total
    - 65 killed in Basra
Jan. 27 – 41 killed total
    - 35 killed in Baghdad

Overall, January’s totals were high, but similar to numbers seen during 2011. The average for all three organizations that track Iraqi deaths was 369 for the month, 11.9 deaths per day, plus there were 330 attacks according to the United Nations, which averaged out to 10.6 per day. The monthly casualties’ average was close to the 364 killed in August 2011, and the 360 in June, which were the two highest counts for last year. The daily average deaths was actually below the highest figure for 2011, which was 12.0 in June, but similar. It was also close to the 11.7 killed in August, and the 11.0 in October. There were far more attacks in previous months. The high for 2011 was 565 in March, followed by 561 in May, and 483 in April. The insurgents were not only more efficient in January 2012, but had more targets with Arbayeen, which accounted for the higher casualties despite fewer attacks then previous months.

Deaths In Iraq 2011-2012
Month
Iraq Body Count
Iraqi Ministries
United Nations
Avg. Monthly Deaths
Avg. Daily Deaths
Jan. 2011
387
259
265
303
9.7
Feb.
250
167
267
228
8.1
Mar.
307
247
268
274
8.8
Apr.
285
211
279
258
8.6
May
378
177
319
291
9.3
Jun.
385
271
424
360
12.0
Jul.
305
259
381
315
10.1
Aug.
398
239
455
364
11.7
Sep.
394
185
405
328
10.9
Oct.
355
258
416
343
11.0
Nov.
272
187
264
241
8.0
Dec.
371
155
313
279
9.0
TOTALS
4,125
1,591
4,056
-
-
2011 Mo. Avg.
343
217
338
298
9.7
Jan. 2012
458
151
500
369
11.9


Attacks In Iraq 2011-2012
Month
Attacks
Avg. Daily Attacks
Jan. 2011
416
13.4
Feb.
358
12.7
Mar.
565
18.2
Apr.
483
16.1
May
561
18.0
Jun.
545
18.1
Jul.
404
13.0
Aug.
376
12.1
Sep.
283
9.1
Oct.
406
13.0
Nov.
268
8.0
Dec.
293
9.4
TOTALS
4,958
-
2011 Mo. Avg.
413.1
13.4
Jan. 2012
330
10.6

Attacks By Province January 2012
Baghdad 73
Ninewa 72
Diyala 58
Tamim 36
Salahaddin 32
Anbar 21
Babil 21
Basra 6
Dhi Qar 3
Sulaymaniya 2
Karbala 2
Wasit 2
Qadisiyah 1
Maysan 1

Types of Attacks January 2012
202 improvised explosive devices
92 small arms fire
22 car bombs
9 mortar/rockets
5 grenades

What the statistics show was that while January had a large number of deaths, they were not that much different from the highs seen in 2011. That belied the press coverage that grew in intensity as the month went on claiming that Iraq was on the verge of a new sectarian civil war. As usual, whenever there is a rise in deadly attacks in Iraq, the media starts ringing the alarm bells with very little analysis. The fact that the United States withdrew its forces in 2011, and the on-going political dispute between Iraq’s parties only added to the sense of doom and gloom in most of the reporting. The fact that there were equally high months of deaths when the United States had thousands of soldiers on the ground, and that the leading Iraqi parties have been arguing since 2010 over the elections were also overlooked.

SOURCES

Aswat al-Iraq, “64 killings, 137 wounded in Basrah explosion,” 1/14/12
- “SECURITY: Victims of al-Batha’a township, Thi-Qar Province, rise to 30 killed, 70 injured,” 1/5/12

Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit, “Security in Iraq”

Iraq Body Count

Reuters, “Iraq civilian deaths rise in January-govt figures,” 2/1/12

Yusef, Mortedha, “28 killed in Baghdad bombing,” AK News, 1/27/12

2 comments:

amagi said...

Thanks, I was hoping you were going to put a post like this together.

Now let's hope that Iraqi parliament can get their act together before this changes.

Joel Wing said...

amagi, I wouldnt hold my breath about the latter. Maliki feels like he won the latest confrontation with Iraqiya because it ended its boycott of parliament, and will soon end the boycott of the cabinet. The list almost broke apart, so Maliki now feels like he can continue to play hardball with them, and they will cave. Iraqiya on the other hand is still talking with many voices, some of which are pushing confrontation with Maliki even though they have no leverage.

The 2012 budget will get passed by the legislature because all the parties want their money for their ministries, and perhaps the new amnesty law. Otherwise it's business as usual.

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