Thursday, April 15, 2010

Conflicting Numbers On Iraq’s March 2010 Casualty Figures

Unlike most months, for March 2010 the four main agencies that track deaths in Iraq, Iraq Body Count,, Iraq’s ministries, and the Associated Press, showed conflicting numbers. For the past ten months, all four groups followed the same pattern; deaths went up one month, and then down the next. This time, Iraq Body Count and Iraq’s Defense, Interior and Health Ministries showed deaths going up for two months straight. For example, in December 2009 Iraq Body Count recorded 426 deaths, then a drop to 258 in January, and then a slight increase to 296 in February. In March however, deaths continued to go up to 303. In comparison, icasualties and the Associated Press’ numbers kept up the pattern. The Associated Press had 383 deaths in December, 177 in January, 255 in February, and then 230 in March.

Mass casualty bombings have also broken their recent history. Since July 2009 the number of bombings and the casualties they caused went up and down like monthly deaths. For instance, in December 2009 there were 25 bombings, causing 246 deaths, and 851 wounded. The next month there were only 10, resulting in 100 deaths and 407 wounded. That went up to 11 in February with 160 deaths and 492 wounded. March however saw the third month of the number of bombings going up with 12, but casualties still followed the up and down pattern with 142 dead and 314 wounded.

The numbers show two important trends in violence in Iraq. First, the insurgents are weakened to the point that they can only carry out a large number of attacks every other month. They then have to take a month to recover and re-supply, which accounts for the previous up and down pattern. Second, casualties are at their lowest rate since the 2003 invasion. The Iraqi security forces are stronger, many groups are trying to partake in politics rather than use violence, most of the insurgency has switched sides since 2005 with the Anbar Awakening and the Sons of Iraq program, and the Special Groups have been largely inactive since the 2008 government offensives in Basra, Baghdad, and Maysan. That has resulted in what some U.S. commanders have called the “irreducible minimum,” meaning violence will not see any more reductions without some change in the status quo. Even with this new security environment, Iraq is still number one in the world in terrorist attacks, and 200-400 people die each month as a result, an unacceptable amount for any country.

Monthly Death Counts

Month Iraq Body Count Icasualties Iraqi Ministries Associated Press 
Aug. 09 584 439 456 425
Sep. 298 158 203 238
Oct. 404 320 410 364
Nov. 205 106 122 93
Dec. 426 287 367 383
Jan. 10 258 135 196 177
Feb. 296236 352 255
Mar. 303 183367230

Mass Casualty Bombings

Months BombingsDeathsWounded
Aug. 09 44 359 2,252
Sep. 13 70 263
Oct. 22 241 887
Nov. 10 43 136
Dec. 25 246 851
Jan. 10 10 100 407
Feb. 22 260 492
Mar. 12 142 314


Associated Press, “Iraq: Key figures since the war began,” 4/1/10

Aswat al-Iraq, “3 killed, 8 wounded in 3 Anbar blasts,” 3/28/10
- “4 killed, 8 wounded in Baghdad blast,” 3/7/10
- “12 killed, 49 injured on special voting day,” 3/4/10
- “15 civilians injured in north of Hilla,” 3/16/10
- “17 vehicles burnt out in Falluja blast,” 3/15/10
- “Baaquba explosions’ toll up to 30 dead, 48 wounded,” 3/6/10
- “Baghdad’s residential building blast casualties up to 44,” 3/7/10
- “Casualties from southern Baghdad blast reach 11,” 3/13/10
- “Final casualties of Khalis blasts 125,” 3/27/10
- “Karbala double explosion’s casualties rise to 69,” 3/29/10
- “Najaf blast kills 4 Iranians, wounds 7,” 3/6/10

Cordesman, Anthony, “The Uncertain Security Situation In Iraq,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2/17/10

Iraq Body Count

Reuters, “Iraq civilian deaths climb in March,” 4/4/10

Xinhua, “Iraq’s death toll of violence rises in March,” 4/5/10

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