Monday, November 5, 2012

Iraq Insurgents’ Summer Offensive Appears To Be Over


Iraq saw a bloody summer this year as insurgent groups launched their annual offensive. In three out of the four months during the season, there were double-digit deaths per day. That now appears to have ended with a large reduction in casualties in October 2012.

Both Iraq Body Count and Iraq’s ministries reported declines in the number of monthly deaths in October. Iraq Body Count had 253 fatalities in its initial count for the month. That was over one hundred fewer than September’s 356, and the second lowest since 230 were killed in May. Likewise, Iraq’s Defense, Interior, and Health Ministries announced 144 deaths last month, down from 365 in September. For more than a year now, Baghdad’s reporting on violence has been incredibly low most months, probably because of politicization by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who controls both the Interior and Defense Ministries. The government’s drop in deaths in October then could be the result of the authorities returning to their poor reporting on the situation. In comparison, Iraq Body Count has been one of the most reliable organizations tracking deaths in Iraq using multiple sources, and constantly updates its statistics as well.

Deaths In Iraq 2011-2012
Month
Iraq Body Count
Iraqi Ministries
Avg. Monthly Deaths
Avg. Daily Deaths
Jan. 2011
387
259
323
10.4
Feb.
250
167
208
7.4
Mar.
307
247
277
8.9
Apr.
285
211
246
8.2
May
378
177
277
8.9
Jun.
385
271
328
10.9
Jul.
305
259
282
9.0
Aug.
398
239
318
10.2
Sep.
394
185
289
9.6
Oct.
355
258
306
9.8
Nov.
272
187
229
7.6
Dec.
386
155
270
8.7
2011 Mo. Avg.
341
217
279
9.1
Jan. 2012
492
151
321
10.3
Feb.
316
150
233
8.3
Mar.
347
112
229
7.4
Apr.
330
126
228
7.6
May
230
132
181
5.8
Jun.
504
131
317
10.5
Jul.
419
325
372
12.0
Aug.
398
164
281
9.0
Sep.
356
365
360
12.0
Oct.
253
144
198
6.4
2012 Mo. Avg.
364
180
272
8.9

In July 2012, Al Qaeda in Iraq’s front organization the Islamic State of Iraq announced its Breaking Walls offensive. The campaign actually started the month before in June. That can be seen in the average daily deaths per day based upon Iraq Body Count and the government figures. Deaths jumped from 5.8 per day in May to 10.5 in June, followed by 12.0 in July, 9.0 in August, and 12.0 in September. October appears to mark the end of the campaign, which resulted in daily casualties dropping to 6.4. Insurgents have been picking up their operations during the middle of every year since 2003. Originally, that coincided with the beginning of Ramadan, but now it is timed with the arrival of summer. In 2011 for instance, deaths went from 8.9 in May to 10.9 in June, 9.0 in July, 10.2 in August, 9.6 in September, and 9.8 in October, before falling to 7.6 in November. These offensives are noted for increases in media grabbing mass casualty bombings, which account for most of the jumps in casualties. Fortunately for Iraq, militants can only keep up the pace of these operations for a few months, before they have to refit and rearm. That’s what happened in October.

Mortality rates in Iraq have fallen into a predictable pattern. Shiite pilgrimages at the beginning of the year are targeted, causing a jump in deaths, then go down until the summer arrives, and casualties usually soar. That brings about press reports that security is deteriorating in the country, and a few comments about a renewed civil war. Then the winter comes, and attacks drop off, only to be repeated the next year. Because much of the reporting on Iraq lacks context, this annual ebb and flow in violence is unfortunately overlooked. Instead, the impression is given that Iraq remains a chaotic country, and misses the dramatic changes that have occurred since the end of the civil war. Daily attacks are commonplace in the nation, but it has changed to the point where most average Iraqis can go about living their daily lives, which is their main concern now, rather than the insurgency.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq violence drops off sharply in October,” 11/1/12

Iraq Body Count

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

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