Thursday, January 3, 2013

Analyzing Violence In Iraq In 2012


2012 was a year of contrasts for the security situation in Iraq. The country’s insurgency grew in strength after the U.S. withdrawal, allowing them to launch more deadly attacks as a result. The Iraqi military also ceased conducting counterinsurgency operations. Those were two of the main reasons why Iraq Body Count recorded an increase in deaths for the year compared to 2011. At the same time, casualties decreased in the second half of the year after the militants’ summer offensive ended. Security incidents were also concentrated in specific provinces and specific cities within them. The number of casualties they caused was a small portion of their populations meaning that most people could go about their regular lives. Overall, security has remained largely the same since 2009, and is unlikely to change in the near term.

December was an example of the level of violence that marked the end of 2012. Iraq Body Count’s early report was 272 killed. The Iraqi government had 208 deaths, while Agence France Presse recorded 144. The month was marked by a number of small attacks with two exceptions. First was December 17 when 70 were killed across six provinces, Ninewa, Salahaddin, Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala, and Tamim. Then on the last day of the year 36 were killed again in six governorates, Ninewa, Salahaddin, Baghdad, Tamim, Babil, Diyala. Iraq Body Count and the government’s figures averaged out to 240 deaths, which was up from November’s 202 and October’s 217, but below September’s 380. That last month marked the finale of the insurgent’s summer offensive, which lasted for four months starting in June. After that deaths steadily declined despite a slight increase in December. Iraq Body Count for example, had 2,481 deaths in the fist half of the year, which averaged out to 413 per month, and 13.6 per day. That compared to 2,084 fatalities in the second half, with an average of 347 per month, and 11.3 per day.

A Tale Of Two Halves Security In Iraq In 2012 – Iraq Body Count Figures
1st Half 2,481 deaths, 413 per month, 13.6 per day
2nd Half 2,084 deaths, 347 per month, 11.3 per day

Deaths In Iraq 2011-2012
Month
Iraq Body Count
Iraqi Ministries
Avg. Monthly Deaths
Avg. Daily Deaths
Jan. 2011
389
259
324
10.4
Feb.
252
167
209
7.4
Mar.
308
247
277
8.9
Apr.
287
211
249
8.3
May
379
177
278
8.9
Jun.
386
271
328
10.9
Jul.
307
259
283
9.1
Aug.
400
239
319
10.2
Sep.
397
185
291
9.7
Oct.
365
258
311
10.3
Nov.
278
187
232
7.7
Dec.
388
155
271
8.7
2011 Mo. Avg.
344
217
306
9.2
2011 Totals
4,136
2,615
-
-
Jan. 2012
524
151
337
10.8
Feb.
356
150
253
8.7
Mar.
376
112
244
7.8
Apr.
392
126
259
8.6
May
304
132
218
7.0
Jun.
529
131
330
11.0
Jul.
466
325
395
12.7
Aug.
422
164
293
9.4
Sep.
396
365
380
12.6
Oct.
290
144
217
7.0
Nov.
238
166
202
6.7
Dec.
272
208
240
287
7.7
2012 Mo. Avg.
378
178
278
9.1
2012 Totals
4,557
2,174
-
-

The Iraqi government and Iraq Body Count’s total number of deaths differed for the year. The latter had 4,557 deaths for 2012. That was up from 4,136 killed in 2011. Iraq’s ministries recorded 2,174 killed, compared to 2,615 in 2011. When the two were averaged out, the number of deaths barely changed between the two years with 9.2 per day in 2011, compared to 9.1 in 2012. That was the result of a drop in deaths reported by Baghdad last year. Since November 2011, the government’s numbers have for the most part been extremely low compared to Iraq Body Count’s. The ministries don’t release any details on their figures, so there’s no way to compare the two directly to figure out the cause of the difference, but politics might be playing a role as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki controls both the Interior and Defense Ministries, which are two of the three that report monthly counts. Even so, Iraq Body Count has found that violence has remained relatively unchanged since 2009. That year there was a total of 4,957 deaths compared to 9,626 in 2008. Since then deaths have remained around 4,000 per year with 4,073 in 2010, 4,136 in 2011, and 4,557 in 2012. 2009 marked a change because Sunnis decided to participate in provincial elections that year after boycotting them in 2005. This inclusion of large number of people who had previously felt shut out of the political system led to a drop in violence in the country, which has remained largely stagnant since then.

A major cause for Iraq Body Count recording more deaths in 2012 was the increased efficiency of the insurgents. From 2008 to the second half of 2011, militants were averaging less than one death per attack using figures collected by the United Nations. In the first half of 2011 for instance, they averaged 0.6 deaths per assault. That figure almost doubled afterward. In the 3rd quarter of 2011, they averaged 1.2 deaths per attack, 1.1 in the 4th quarter, 1.2 in the 1st quarter of 2012, and 1.1 in the 2nd. This was achieved through deadlier mass casualty bombings. Iraq Body Count had 2,764 deaths from explosives in 2012, accounting for 61.8% of their total for the year. That averaged out to 18 bombings a week leading to 53 deaths and 143 wounded. The effectiveness of the insurgency last year was due to the fact that their ranks were swelled after the U.S. withdrawal. Thousands of militants were released from prison as a result, and many of those went right back to work killing people. The Iraqi security forces are also no longer carrying out counterinsurgency operations like they did when partnered with the Americans. Now they are mostly a reactive force that carries out raids and mass arrests after every major attack. That has given the insurgency more room to operate, and allowed them to rebuild some of their support networks.

The last two years have followed the same general pattern of attacks and deaths. First, there were a large number of casualties in January as militants went after Shiite pilgrims celebrating Arbaeen. That resulted in an average of 10.4 deaths per day in 2011 and 10.8 in 2012. Then there was a slight decrease until the summer offensives started. In 2011, deaths went from 8.9 per day in May to 10.9 in June, 9.1 in July, 10.2 in August, 9.7 in September, and 10.3 in October. Last year, daily fatalities were at 7.0 in May, before jumping to 11.0 in June, 12.7 in July, 9.4 in August, and 12.6 in September. In the last few months of both years, deaths then dropped. In 2012 there were 8.0 per day in October, 6.7 in November, and 7.7 in December. 2013 is likely to follow in a similar fashion.

Violence in Iraq is also not evenly distributed throughout the country. Iraq Body Count recorded 43% of deaths in just two provinces, Baghdad and Ninewa. In a deeper analysis, it broke down how many fatalities occurred per population of each governorate. It found that Diyala, 37.63 killed per 100,000, Salahaddin, 36.22 per 100,00, and Anbar 31.89 per 100,000 were the deadliest. People there were twice as likely to die than in Baghdad that had 15.39 fatalities per 100,000. In total, seven provinces, Diyala, Salahaddin, Anbar, Ninewa, Tamim, Babil, and Baghdad saw the vast majority of violence in 2012 with double-digit deaths per 100,000 people. The other eleven governorates in northern and southern Iraq were relatively peaceful. Karbala and Najaf had 2.81 killed per 100,000 deaths and 0.53 per 100,000 respectively. Furthermore, deaths occur far more often in specific cities within each province. Baquba in Diyala for example, had 120 deaths from January to August 2012. That compared to other cities and towns in the governorate such as Jalawla that had 5 killed, Khanaqin with 4, Mandali with 0, and Muqtadiya with 26 for the same time period. That showed two things. First, the insurgency does not have the capability and depth to operate throughout the country. Sometimes, they launch strikes into southern Iraq for instance, but those do not happen that often throughout the year, and take special planning and intelligence gathering. Other places like Baghdad, Mosul, Fallujah, and Ramadi have long standing bases and supply lines that make operating there much easier for militants. Second, even in the most violent cities the number of deaths was a small portion of the total population. That along with the concentration of attacks in specific cities means that the vast majority of Iraqis are no longer affected by violence. They can go about their daily lives relatively safely.  

Deaths By Province And By Population Per Province 2012 – Iraq Body Count
Province
Deaths in 2012
Deaths per 100,000
Diyala
543
37.63
Salahaddin
510
36.22
Anbar
498
31.89
Ninewa
834
25.50
Tamim
284
20.35
Babil
323
17.74
Baghdad
1,086
15.39
Wasit
62
5.12
Qadisiyah
52
4.58
Basra
101
3.99
Dhi Qar
65
3.54
Karbala
30
2.81
Maysan
20
2.06
Sulaymaniya
36
1.92
Irbil
10
0.62
Dohuk
6
0.53
Najaf
6
0.47
Muthanna
1
0.14

Despite the withdrawal of American forces in December 2011, Iraq did not unravel last year. There were several trends that could have made things worse. First, the U.S. released thousands of prisoners when they exited, many of which rejoined the insurgency. Second, the Iraqi military ceased conducting counterinsurgency operations, which were pushed by the Americans. Third, that allowed the militants to rebuild their networks, and carry out more mass casualty attacks, which was what led to an increase in deaths in 2012 compared to 2011 according to Iraq Body Count. Despite all that, overall security has largely been unchanged since 2009. That was the last time Iraq had provincial elections, and a large number of Sunnis and insurgents decided to participate. That led to a large drop in attacks and deaths, which have remained largely unchanged since then. Until there is another change in Iraq’s political situation where people feel like they can become involved in the new Iraq it is unlikely that violence will decrease again.

SOURCES

Agence France Presse, “Iraq casualties from violence (December 2012)”
- “Iraq Government Casualty Figures”

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

Iraq Body Count, “Iraqi deaths from violence in 2012,” 1/1/13
- “Monthly table”
- “Recent Events”

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

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