Monday, July 19, 2010

Average Daily Casualties In Iraq Drop In June 2010

As in previous months, the four organizations that cover deaths in Iraq, Iraq Body Count,, Iraq's ministries, and the Associated Press, showed mixed trends. As always, Iraq Body Count recorded the highest number of deaths for June at 379 compared to 370 in May. They were the only group that showed a steady increase in monthly deaths in 2010. In January for example, they noted 258 deaths, going up to 296 in February, 311 in March, 376 in April, before slightly dropping to 370 in May. Iraq Body Count regularly revises their initial numbers down after they go through their sources, so June's mark may decline as well. Icasualties had the fewest deaths at 176 in June compared to 279 in May. They tend to solely rely upon Western reports, and ignore English language Iraqi sources like Aswat al-Iraq that track daily security incidents. On their site they note that the actual number of Iraqi deaths are much higher than their count. In 2009 a monthly pattern emerged where casualties would go up and down every month. The Associated Press is the only organization that continues to report that trend. In January 2010 they had 177 deaths, going up to 255 in February, down to 230 in March, up to 321 in April, declining to 278 in May, before increasing to 294 in June

Iraqi deaths are at the lowest level since 2003, and are unlikely to see any serious change in the near-term. The average number of deaths in Iraq has been going up since the beginning of the year, but is just below the rate set in 2009. In January 2010 there was an average of 6.1 Iraqis killed per day. By June that rate had gone up to 9.4 per day. In the first six months of the year there have been an average of 9.2 Iraqi casualties per day, compared to 10.5 in 2009. Also warnings about increased violence due to political stalemate over forming a new government are only partially true. The average number of deaths went up the month after the March 2010 parliamentary elections, but have been inching downward since then. Overall, Iraq has hit what some military analysts have called the "irreducible minimum." Casualties are unlikely to see any sizeable change for the foreseeable future until there is a shakeup in the current status quo. Previous sea changes have been the Anbar tribes turning against Al Qaeda in Iraq, the U.S. Surge, the formation of the Sons of Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr's cease-fire, and high Sunni participation in the 2009 provincial elections. Until another such event happens Iraq will continue to see the daily attacks and deaths that it is currently experiencing.

Monthly Death Counts
Month Iraq Body Count Icasualties Iraqi Ministries Associated Press 
Avg. Deaths Per Day 
Jan. 10 
1st 6 Months 2010


Agence France Presse, "Iraq death toll falls sharply in June: ministries," 6/30/10

Associated Press, "Iraq: Key figures since the war began," 7/1/10

Cordesman, Anthony, "Victory And Violence In Iraq: Reducing the 'irreducible minimum,'" Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2/25/08


Iraq Body Count


Don Cox said...

I wish there were figures for the number of deaths in traffic accidents in Iraq, for comparison. My guess is that they would be somewhat higher.

AndrewSshi said...

I wonder what sort of drastic change would be necessary to move casualties down further. AQI is about as popular as genital warts but still manages to pull off the occasional big bomb. What other developments could happen short of al Douri saying, "F*ck it, we give up?"

Joel Wing said...

Good question Andrew. I think the first would be the defeat of Al Qaeda which I think is coming, but still a few years away. AQI is at the point that when they name a new commander they get rounded up or killed pretty quickly. Taking care of Mosul would be a second step. The Americans are pushing the Iraqis to take care of that before they leave, but reports I've read don't seem to portray the Iraqi forces as doing any kind of counterinsurgency program there. Third would be some kind of reconciliation with the Baathists. One faction has been trying to negotiate for quite some time now but their demand that the Baath party be legalized is a dead end for them. I think the last big change, would be getting rid of the gangs in Iraq, which no one talks about really and is not prioritized by either Baghdad or Washington.

Joel Wing said...

Done said: "My guess is that they would be somewhat higher."

Don, would that lesson the impact of these attacks? Would it change the business environment for example where security is still the main concern according to a recent poll.

I think you need to draw a fine line when discussing violence in Iraq. On the one hand, it's nothing like it was before, yet the press and some pundits make it seem like it's worse than it is sometimes. On the other hand, Iraq is still one of the most violent countries in the world. As a study recently noted it has the greatest threat of terrorism in the world, and as I told you in an earlier comment, the lowest number of deaths in Iraq is more than the highest in Afghanistan.

So where do you draw the line when describing it without trivializing or exaggerating it?

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