The State of Iraq: An Update

While the American and Iraqi troops for the so-called surge are nearly all in place, it’s far too early to judge the effect. Still, given America’s waning patience with the war and the bad circumstances that prevailed in Iraq when the surge began, optimism is hard to come by. Our latest chart of leading indicators, based on American and Iraqi government data and news reports, doesn’t brighten the picture much.

First, the good news. Overall levels of violence are down somewhat in Baghdad. Extrajudicial killings — largely reprisal assassinations carried out against Sunnis by Shiite militias — are about 50 percent below levels from the winter. In violent Anbar Province, security cooperation among sheiks, their followers, the Iraqi government and Coalition forces against Al Qaeda remains impressive.

A number of extremist militia members and Qaeda operatives have been killed and captured in the Baghdad area, with American and Iraqi forces conducting 6 to 12 raids per day. These attacks help explain the rising American death tolls of April and May, which are obviously not good news, but may offer hope of a somewhat calmer future.

Alas, bad news still dominates. Overall levels of violence remain very high by the standards of other countries suffering from civil conflicts, and also in comparison with the Iraq of 2003 through 2005. Bombings by Sunni insurgents and Qaeda terrorists remain prevalent enough that the current restraint being exercised by most Shiite militias will be difficult to sustain. Cities like Kirkuk and Mosul remain tinderboxes. The economy remains stagnant and utility performance abysmal.

And, perhaps worst of all, the Iraqi political system has failed to deliver any real progress on the core issues dividing Sunni from Shiite from Kurd, without which there will be no lasting peace.

Category May 2003 May 2004 May 2005 May 2006 May 2007
U.S. Troops in Iraq (in thousands) 150 138 138 132 150
Other Foreign Troops (in thousands) 23 24 23 20 12
U.S. Troop Deaths 37 80 79 69 123
U.S. Troop Deaths From Homemade Bombs (percent) 0 26 41 52 65
Iraqi Security Forces (in thousands) 0 136 168 266 349
Iraqi Security Force Fatalities 50 100 259 150 198
Monthly Attacks Against Coalition and Civilians 150 1,700 1,900 3,500 4,200
Iraqi Civilian Deaths 500 1,025 1,000 2,670 2,750
New Iraqi Civilian Displaced by Violence (in thousands) 10 20 30 100 80
Multiple Fatality Bombings 0 9 36 56 42
Oil Production (in millions of barrels per day; prewar: up to 2.5) 0.3 1.9 2.1 2.1 2.0
Household Fuel Supply (as percentage of estimated need) 10 73 93 82 56
Electricity Production (average megawatts; prewar: 4,000) 500 3,900 3,700 3,900 3,700
Unemployment Rate (percent) 60 38 34 33 33
Telephone Subscribers (in millions; prewar: 0.8) 0.3 1.2 3.5 7.5 10.0
Annual Gross Domestic Product Growth Rate (percent) 0 40 4 4 4
Iraqis Saying Country is Headed in Right Direction (percent) 70 51 55 39 36

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(graphic by Amy Unikewicz)

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