Two months before Iraq is scheduled to hold its nationwide elections, how are things going? After the bloody assault on Falluja, in which some 50 United States troops and many times that number of insurgents died, no American needs to be reminded that the situation is very difficult. In fact, while the Falluja operation could have some eventual benefits, we cannot yet identify any objective measure of sustained progress in increasing Iraqi security.
Other recent trends are somewhat more encouraging: foreign aid is beginning to be spent more quickly, even if much of it is being directed toward security rather than rebuilding cities and towns; Iraqi security forces are now being trained more rigorously – and they’re beginning to perform better on the battlefield; the overall quality of public services may finally be inching ahead of late-Saddam Hussein levels; the transfer of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government has continued to deflect some of the anti-American anger on the street; and Iraqis are for the most part bullish on their future.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s popularity has fallen in recent months, unemployment rates remain far too high, insurgents continue to attack oil pipelines and police stations, and Iraqi security forces still cannot begin to take the major responsibility for combating the insurgents.
On balance, the data show that security trends in Iraq are generally poor, economic trends are promising but glacial in pace, and political trends are hopeful but fragile.
View the Op-Chart (graphic design by Amy Unikewicz)