Monday, September 17, 2012

The Localized Nature Of Violence In Iraq


In an interview with Musings On Iraq, Dr. Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy pointed out that violence in Iraq has become increasingly localized. Between provinces and cities within the country there are great variations in the level of attacks and deaths. For instance, in places like Baghdad and Mosul there are on average a 100 a more attacks per month. That compares to places like Kut in Wasit province where an incident may only happen every few months. Even within cities there are differences. Mosul per capita, is the most violent urban area in Iraq, but even there 100 attacks spread out across a 10 mile area with around 1.8 million people means most only hear or read about an explosion or gunfire rather than actually witness it. This all points to the complicated nature of security in Iraq at present. Press reports of mass casualty bombings, especially now with the insurgents carrying out a summer offensive, give the impression that the whole nation must be on fire. A study of casualties across 30 cities shows that militants are in fact greatly limited in where they can carry out their deadly work.

Tracking violence in Iraq is extremely difficult today using open sources. Press reports capture many incidents, but not all of them. There are security firms like the Olive Group that issue weekly reports, but they do not capture everything either. The United Nations used to have a website dedicated to attacks and deaths, but it has gone down in recent months. Iraq Body Count is widely considered one of the longest running and most consistent in its coverage, but it too is limited, since it only records deaths. Given the fact that it provides daily statistics on casualties however, it will be used as the basis of this study.

Iraq Body Count’s database was used to track fatalities in 30 Iraqi cities that cover all regions of the country. This gives a sampling of the wide variations in insurgent activity today. Groups like Al Qaeda in Iraq for instance, claim that they are trying to regroup and expand their operations this summer. On July 21, 2012, its umbrella organization the Islamic State of Iraq announced Operation Breaking Walls, which was aimed at regaining ground it had lost, while the Americans were in the country. That coincided with a high number of deaths in June and July. There have since been reports that it is trying to impose a tax system in provinces like Diyala and Anbar to fund its work, and it has started issuing monthly internet announcements bragging about its effectiveness. Iraq Body Count’s figures however, show that Al Qaeda and other militants like the Baathist Naqshibandi are only able to sustain operations in a few of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Most of their attacks occur between Baghdad and Ninewa, which is roughly only one third of the country. In 2011, 68% of attacks recorded by the U.N. happened in just 4 governorates, Baghdad, Ninewa, Salahaddin, and Diyala. They are not even able to impose their will consistently across those provinces, as the numbers will show.

Baghdad is Iraq’s largest city and the seat of government. It has been a focal point for violence since the 2003 invasion as a result. That’s why it consistently has the highest death counts of any urban area. Even then, attacks come in waves that coincide with Shiite religious events, which are consistently targeted, and the summer when militants carry out their annual offensive. In August and September 2011 for instance, there were 86 and 68 deaths respectively. That then shot up to 156 in October, as the capital became the focus of the last month of the summer season, before dropping to 46 the next. Then in December, there were 139 fatalities, largely due to 17 explosions across the city on December 22, as the Islamic State claimed it was launching a new effort to rekindle the sectarian war and bring down the government. Those high numbers continued into January 2012, as Al Qaeda went after Shiite pilgrims. Those figures then saw a steady drop from 103 in February to 44 in March, 54 in April, and 49 in May, which is traditionally when insurgents regroup. June marked the beginning of the new summer offensive with 147 deaths, then 73 in July, and 102 in August. The figures for Baghdad show the up and down nature of attacks in Iraq. Certain months are extremely deadly, while others have relatively low figures. They also show how insurgents have concentrated most of their resources on the capital since it offers so many targets, and is an attempt to show that the government is not in complete control of the country. Still, in a city as vast as Baghdad with a population of at least 5 million, an average of 99.5 deaths per month shows that the vast majority of the populace is not really affected.

Baghdad Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 86
September 2011 – 68
October 2011 – 156
November 2011 – 46
December 2011 – 139
January 2012 – 127
February 2012 – 103
March 2012 – 44
April 2012 – 54
May 2012 49
June 2012 147
July 2012 – 73
August 2012 – 102

Mosul, in Ninewa province, is the last major urban stronghold of the insurgency, and a major source of its funding. Attacks there are different than in Baghdad. There most casualties are caused by bombings. In Mosul, shootings are far more common. In August and September 2011, there were only 23 and 31 deaths respectively. That jumped to 78 in October, before going down to 30 in November, and then increasing again to 62 in December. That pattern was followed in 2012 with 38 killed in January, 42 in February, 61 in March, 58 in April, 32 in May, 55 in June, 48 in July, and 55 in August. Like in the capital, security incidents go up and down in number, but not always at the same times. Since small arms are the main tools used, there are far fewer casualties there than in Baghdad where large explosions take a heavier toll, yet Mosul is the second deadliest city in the country. Still, there was only an average of 51.0 deaths per month amongst 1.8 million people from August 2011 to August 2012.

Mosul, Ninewa Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 23
September 2011 – 31
October 2011 – 78
November 2011 – 30
December 2011 – 62
January 2012 – 38
February 2012 – 42
March 2012 – 61
April 2012 – 58
May 2012 – 32
June 2012 – 55
July 2012 – 48
August 2012 - 55

The insurgents’ strong base in Mosul does not mean they are as active in the rest of Ninewa. In Sinjar and Tal Afar, which are to the west, there is very little violence. In Sinjar for example, there were no deaths from August 2011 to August 2012. In Tal Afar for that same time period, there were only a total of 35 killed. 20 of those were due to a car bomb and a suicide bomber at a restaurant in the city on March 7, 2012. This shows that militants are not able to operate freely across provinces, even when they have a large foothold in one urban area. This is highlighted in other governorates as well.

Sinjar, Ninewa Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 0

Tal Afar, Ninewa Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 1
December 2011 – 4
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 21
April 2012 – 3
May 2012 – 1
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 3
August 2012 - 2

Salahaddin, Diyala, and Anbar are three areas that have traditionally been stomping grounds for insurgents. Like in Ninewa however, they only seem to be concentrated in specific cities. In Salahaddin, which was the province of Saddam Hussein, his hometown of Tikrit is largely quite, along with Samarra, and Baiji. Tikrit only had 35 people killed from August 2011 to August 2012. For that same period, 54 died in Samarra, and 21 in Baiji. In Diyala, Baquba was far deadlier for that time with 164 casualties. Those high figures were not seen in other cities of the governorate though. In Jalawala and Khanaqin, which are in the disputed territories, Kurds have consistently claimed that they have been under attack. Very few deaths have occurred in either city however with 11 in the former and 5 in the latter. Likewise, other cities in the province such as Mandali and Muqtadiya saw very few casualties as well with just 0 and 36 respectively. The same pattern is seen in Anbar. Fallujah and Ramadi have been longtime bases for insurgents and remain the most insecure in the governorate with 133 and 125 deaths from August 2011 to August 2012. Outside of those areas however, there are very few casualties. In Haditha there were only 9, in Rutba just 3, and 4 in Qaim. Again, the insurgents are not evenly distributed throughout these provinces. Some areas see monthly attacks, but most have only sporadic incidents with many being relatively peaceful beyond an occasional explosion or shooting.

Tikrit, Salahaddin Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 5
September 2011 – 2
October 2011 – 1
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 2
January 2012 – 2
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 6
April 2012 – 4
May 2012 – 2
June 2012 – 1
July 2012 – 1
August 2012 – 9

Samarra, Salahaddin Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 1
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 3
November 2011 – 11
December 2011 – 2
January 2012 – 6
February 2012 – 1
March 2012 – 6
April 2012 – 7
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 7
July 2012 – 6
August 2012 – 4

Baiji, Salahaddin Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 1
January 2012 – 2
February 2012 – 4
March 2012 – 2
April 2012 – 1
May 20 12 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 - 11

Baquba, Diyala Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 11
September 2011 – 11
October 2011 – 13
November 2011 – 3
December 2011 – 6
January 2012 – 13
February 2012 – 18
March 2012 – 6
April 2012 10
May 2012 – 1
June 2012 – 52
July 2012 – 6
August 2012 - 14

Jalawla, Diyala Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 4
September 2011 – 1
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 1
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 5
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 0

Khanaqin, Diyala Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 1
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 1
February 2012 – 1
March 2012 – 0
April 012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 - 2

Mandali, Diyala Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 0

Muqtadiya, Diyala Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 1
September 2011 – 6
October 2011 – 1
November 2011 – 1
December 2011 – 1
January 2012 – 4
February 2012 – 1
March 2012 – 1
April 2012 – 1
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 1
July 2012 – 8
August 2012 - 10

Fallujah, Anbar Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 9
September 2011 – 4
October 2011 – 6
November 2011 – 5
December 2011 – 15
January 2012 – 6
February 2012 – 10
March 2012 – 7
April 2012 – 2
May 2012 – 11
June 2012 – 24
July 2012 – 11
August 2012 – 23

Ramadi, Anbar Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 23
September 2011 – 11
October 2011 – 6
November 2011 – 9
December 2011 – 4
January 2012 – 13
February 2012 – 5
March 2012 – 6
April 2012 – 6
May 2012 – 13
June 2012 – 18
July 2012 – 11
August 2012 – 0

Haditha, Anbar Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 3
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 - 6

Rutba, Anbar Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 - 3

Qaim, Anbar Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 3
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 1
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 - 0

Kirkuk in Tamim governorate has been a flash point in Iraq for years, because it is hotly contested between the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), which wishes to annex it and the central government in Baghdad. Its multi-ethnic composition has also been a target of insurgents who wish to divide the groups. It’s for those reasons that the city has a relatively high mark of 168 killed from August 2011 to August 2012.

Kirkuk, Tamim Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012

August 2011 – 6 killed
September 2011 – 19
October 2011 – 4
November 2011 – 8
December 2011 – 15
January 2012 – 16
February 2012 – 8
March 2012 – 8
April 2012 – 12
May 2012 – 9
June 2012 – 5
July 2012 – 14
August 2012 – 32

In southern Iraq, security is completely different. There attacks are far and few between. Insurgents like to target Shiite pilgrims heading towards holy sites, but their ability to carry out these operations within the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf are negligible. In Karbala for instance, there were only 14 casualties from August 2011 to August 2012, with 13 of those occurring in one incident when a restaurant in the city was hit by a car bomb. In Najaf, only 13 people were killed over that same time period, with 8 in August 2011, and 5 in July 2012. Similar low numbers were seen in other cities of the region, such as Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar where only 2 people died over those thirteen months, and in Samawa in Muthanna, Umm Qasr in Basra, and Amarah in Maysan where there were no casualties. That doesn’t mean insurgents were not active in the area. Certain cities did witness some large attacks. Kut, in Wasit, saw 40 killed in August 2011 by a twin bombing in a market. After that incident however, only 15 more died over the next eleven months. Likewise, in Babil’s Hillah, 73 died during that period, with 21 being police recruits and civilians dying in a car bombing of a restaurant in June 2012. Diwaniya in Qadisiyah was similar with 53 fatalities, 40 of which were due to a truck bombing in a market. Finally, the major city of the south, Basra, had 55 deaths, 23 coming from bombings of a market, and twelve from a motorcycle bomb outside a café, both in November 2011. Even then, violence across the south was sporadic. Babil saw the most militant activity, but even then, eleven out of the 13 months from August 2011 to August 2012 had less then ten killed each month. Basically, outside of the occasional large bombing at a market, most of the south was relatively quite. That showed that insurgents could only venture into the region. Carry out a car, truck or motorcycle bombing in a city, and then leave.

Karbala, Karbala Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 17
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 13
April 2012 – 1
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 0

Najaf, Najaf Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 8
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 5
August 2012 – 0

Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 1
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 1

Samawa, Muthanna Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 0

Amarah, Maysan Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 0

Umm Qasr, Basra Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 0

Kut, Wasit Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 42
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 1
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 1
January 2012 – 1
February 2012 – 2
March 2012 – 3
April 2012 – 1
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 6

Hillah, Babil Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 11
September 2011 – 1
October 2011 – 1
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 5
January 2012 – 9
February 2012 – 2
March 2012 – 8
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 32
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 – 4

Diwaniya, Qadisiyah Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 3
October 2011 – 2
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 1
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 2
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 45
August 2012 - 0

Basra, Basra Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 4
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 35
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 3
February 2012 – 3
March 2012 – 5
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 3
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 0
August 2012 - 2

That leaves the northern Kurdish region, which is by far the most secure area of the country. In two of its main cities, Irbil and Sulaymaniya, there were only six people killed between them, none of which appeared to be due to insurgent activity. With its largely no-Arab population and tight border control the Kurdistan region is not conducive to militant infiltration.

Irbil, Irbil Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 1
September 2011 – 1
October 2011 – 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012 – 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 2
August 2012 – 0

Sulaymaniya, Sulaymaniya Casualty Figures August 2011-August 2012
August 2011 – 0
September 2011 – 0
October 2011 - 0
November 2011 – 0
December 2011 – 0
January 2012 – 0
February 2012 – 0
March 2012- 0
April 2012 – 0
May 2012 – 0
June 2012 – 0
July 2012 – 2
August 2012 - 0

The 30 cities included in this survey show how security varies across Iraq. Baghdad and Mosul remain the two most violent cities of the nation, but even then, the number killed are such a small fraction of the population, that most are able to go about their lives without fear of suffering wounds or losing their life. That’s even more so in the south where a bombing might occur just once or twice a year. Then there’s Kurdistan where insurgents are not able to carry out any attacks. Sunni armed groups are still active in Iraq, but they are limited to certain areas of the country. Not only that, but they are only able to carry out a large number of operations for a limited amount of time before they have to regroup and rearm. This is far different from the years of the civil war when thousands were dying each month, militants could openly walk down the streets, certain parts of cities were off limits to the security forces, and polls showed that a majority of Iraqis had at least personally witnessed an act of violence. Iraq still faces daily violence, but it is important to note its increasingly limited affect upon the general population.

SOURCES

Iraq Body Count

Al-Khoei, Hayder, “Al-Qaeda’s surge spells further turmoil for Iraq,” Guardian, 8/21/12

Mohammed, Bryar, “Khanaqin council demands peshmerga protection,” AK News, 7/26/12

Musings On Iraq, “What Is Security Like Today In Iraq? An Interview With Dr. Michael Knights,” 7/31/12

Olive Group, “Weekly Security Update,” Iraq Business News, 9/13/12

Reuters, “Qaeda claims latest deadly Iraq attacks,” 9/10/12

Shafaq News, “Source: Al-Qaeda imposes taxes in Diyala and Anbar,” 9/8/12

1 comment:

Joel Wing said...

Is anyone using Internet Explorer having problems with the site? I use Firefox at home, but Explorer at work, and it gets the articles all messed up and you can't access the entire front page. Please let me know. This has happened before with Explorer cutting things off.

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