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Iraq

1. Background on Iraq
2. U.S. Troop levels
3. US Strategy
4. Insurgency and Sectarian Violence
5. Casualties in Iraq
6. Will the US succeed in Iraq?
Reading
Footnotes


On the first of May 2003, President George W. Bush, standing underneath a banner reading "Mission Accomplished" on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, declared a triumphant end to "major combat operations" in Iraq. "In the battle of Iraq," the president proclaimed, "the United States and our allies have prevailed."1 The president's victory proclamation has long since seemed premature; with the U.S. military occupation near the end of its fifth year, the United States has yet to win the peace.


Since the spring of 2003, U.S. forces have fought a tough counterinsurgency war against remnants of the Baath regime and Sunni Islamist militants, as well as foreign terrorists, with links to Al Qaed, and Shia militias. Over the last five years, the fighting in Iraq has become more diffuse, as a civil war for sectarian control of the post-Saddam Iraqi state and its economy has enlarged the resistance to U.S. occupation. As the violence escalated, and with no end in sight to the American operation, the Bush administration received calls from across the political spectrum to changes its strategy in Iraq. In March 2006, Congress commissioned the Iraq Study Group (ISG)-a ten-person bipartisan panel, led by co-chairs James Baker former Secretary of State, and Lee Hamilton, former U.S. Representative-to assess the U.S.-led war in Iraq and make policy recommendations. On December 6, 2006, ISG released its report to the public. ISG recommended that:


The situation is Iraq and grave and deteriorating. The Iraqi government should accelerate assuming responsibility for Iraqi security by increasing the number and quality of Iraqi Army brigades. While this process is under way, and to facilitate it, the United States should significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops, imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. As these actions proceed, U.S. combat forces could begin to move out of Iraq. The primary mission of US forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army... By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq...The United States must not make an open-ended commitment to keep large numbers of American troops deployed in Iraq. 2


While critics of the war praised the ISG report, longstanding supporters of the war and the Bush administration rejected most of the report's key findings, particularly its call for a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. In January 2007, the American Enterprise Institute released a rival report, entitled Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq.3 The AEI report endorsed a U.S. troop surge in Iraq, in direct challenge to the Iraq Study Group's recommendation of a phased withdrawal.


On January 10, 2007, President Bush announced a new military strategy to end sectarian violence and achieve security and stability in Iraq.4 The president's plan increased American force levels in Iraq (the "surge") in order to halt sectarian violence in Baghdad, and thus create more favorable security conditions for political reconciliation and accommodation. Bush committed approximately 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, the majority of which were deployed to Baghdad to assist Iraqi forces in clearing and security neighborhood and serve as advisors embedded in Iraqi Army units.5 By summer 2007, U.S. troop levels in Iraq had risen from 130,000 in mid-February to 160,000.6


In September 2007, General David Petraeus, Commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, testified before Congress that, "the military objectives of the surge are, in large measure, being met," including a reduction sectarian violence and civilian deaths, as swell as an increase in the size and military capabilities of Iraqi Security Forces.7 Based on these security achievements, Petraeus recommended a drawdown in US forces in Iraq to pre-surge levels at the start of summer 2008.


Despite improvements in the security situation-which some observers fear may be temporary-Iraqi political leaders have made little progress toward national reconciliation. The overall living conditions for Iraqis, moreover, remain parlous, with millions displaced, social services deteriorated, unemployment high, human rights in jeopardy, and hundreds of thousands of "excess deaths" from the war. The final outcome of the American occupation of Iraq is therefore far from certain.


1. Background on Iraq
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A. Maps of Iraq


General Map



Iraqi oil fields and infrastructure



Map of Ethnic and Religion Groups located in Iraq



B. Background Facts


Geography
Total area 437,072 sq km
Border countries Iran 1,458 km, Jordan 181 km, Kuwait 240 km, Saudi Arabia 814 km, Syria 605 km, Turkey 352 km
Population
Population (July 2007 estimate) 27,499,638
Population growth rate (July 2007 estimate) 2.62 %
Major ethnic groups Arab 75%-80%, Kurdish 15%-20%, Turkoman, Assyrian or other 5%
Major religious groups Muslim 97% (Shi'a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%
Economy
GDP (PPP, 2007) $100 billion
GDP (exchange rates, 2007) $55.4 billion
GDP real growth rate (2007) 5%
GDP per capita (2007) $3,600
Unemployment rate (2006) 18 to 30%
Inflation rate (2007) 4.7%
Oil Sector
Export commodities Crude oil (84%), crude materials excluding fuels (8.0%), food and live animals (5.0%)
Oil production (2007) 2.11 million bbl/day*
Oil exports (2007) 1.67 million bbl/day

* Note: Prewar production (in 2002) was 2.03 million bbl/day.


Source: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The 2008 World Fact Book (Washington, DC: CIA, 2007).


2. The War in Iraq: Insurgency and Sectarian Violence
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A. Insurgent Violence


Enemy-Initiated Attacks Against the Coalition and Its Partners
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Source: Anthony H. Cordesman, Violence in Iraq: Reaching an Irreducible Minimum (Washington, DC: CSIS, January 25, 2008). Available at http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/080227_violence.in.iraq.pdf








B. Insurgent Groups in Iraq


    For an overview of Iraq's Sunni insurgent groups, see Anthony H. Cordesman, Iraq's Sunni Insurgents: Looking Beyond Al Qa'ida (Washington, DC: CSIS, July 16, 2007).


  1. Foreign Fighters in Iraq

    It is widely understood that the numbers of foreign combatants, not including the U.S.-led coalition forces, are small in number, between 2-10% of all irregular militia or insurgents. Some are responsible for the more spectacular attacks, such as suicide bombings, which give the impression of a more significant presence.


Estimated Number of Foreign Fighters in the Insurgency
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Source: Anthony H. Cordesman, Violence in Iraq: Reaching an Irreducible Minimum (Washington, DC: CSIS, January 25, 2008). Available at http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/080227_violence.in.iraq.pdf




Nationalities of Foreign Fighters in Iraq
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Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.




C. Insurgent strategy and tactics


The insurgency aims to exploit a perceived inability of the Iraqi government to constitute itself effectively, hoping to precipitate the collapse of the nascent Iraqi government. Baghdad is one prominent focal point of insurgent activity. In addition, attacks focus on southwestern Diyala Province and in the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, and appeared to be escalating sharply in such places as Baghdad was stabilized during the latter half of 2007.


D. Sectarian Violence


Iraq experienced a rise of ethno-sectarian attacks following the Samarra shrine bombing of February 22, 2006. In an effort to increase sectarian strife, insurgents and illegal armed groups have increasingly targeted civilians. Rival Sunni and Shi'a death squads and extremist groups aim to create and protect sectarian enclaves, with extremists portraying themselves as the defenders of their respective sectarian groups as they compete for provincial influence.


Sectarian Groups in Baghdad
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Source: Slides to Accompany Congressional Testimony of General Petraeus (Sept. 10-11, 2007). Available at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/Petraeus-Testimony-Slides20070910.pdf.




Multiple Fatality Bombings Targeting Civilians, By Sectarian Group
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Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.




3. US Strategy in Iraq
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A. National Strategy for Victory in Iraq


  • In November 2005, President Bush announced his National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, in which the U.S. aims to assist the Iraqi people in building a new Iraq with a constitutional, representative government, security forces sufficient to maintain civil order and prevent Iraq from becoming safe haven for terrorists, and a sound and self-sustaining economy. "To achieve this end, we are pursuing an integrated strategy along three broad tracks, which together incorporate the efforts of the Iraqi government, the coalition, cooperative countries in the region, the international community, and the United Nations," the strategy states. Victory in Iraq is a vital U.S. interest; the Bush administration regards Iraq as the central front in the global war on terror. Accordingly, failure in Iraq would embolden terrorists, making Iraq a safe haven from which terrorists could plan attacks against the U.S. and U.S. interests abroad.

The strategy defines victory in three stages:


  • Short term: Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions and standing up security forces.
  • Medium term: Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security, with a fully constitutional government in place, and on its way to achieving its economic potential.
  • Long term: Iraq is peaceful, united, stable and secure, well integrated into the international community, and a full partner in the global war on terrorism.

The Three Tracks of U.S. Strategy in Iraq:


  • The Political Track involves working to forge a broadly supported national compact for democratic governance by helping the Iraqi government:
    • Isolate enemy elements from those who can be won over to the political process by countering false propaganda and demonstrating to all Iraqis that they have a stake in a democratic Iraq;
    • Engage those outside the political process and invite in those willing to turn away from violence through ever-expanding avenues of participation; and
    • Build stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions that can protect the interests of all Iraqis, and facilitate Iraq's full integration into the international community.
  • The Security Track involves carrying out a campaign to defeat the terrorists and neutralize the insurgency, developing Iraqi security forces, and helping the Iraqi government:
    • Clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters and denying them safe-haven;
    • Hold areas freed from enemy influence by ensuring that they remain under the control of the Iraqi government with an adequate Iraqi security force presence; and
    • Build Iraqi Security Forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society.
  • The Economic Track involves setting the foundation for a sound and self-sustaining economy by helping the Iraqi government:
    • Restore Iraq's infrastructure to meet increasing demand and the needs of a growing economy;
    • Reform Iraq's economy, which in the past has been shaped by war, dictatorship, and sanctions, so that it can be self-sustaining in the future; and
    • Build the capacity of Iraqi institutions to maintain infrastructure, rejoin the international economic community, and improve the general welfare of all Iraqis.

See: National Security Council, National Strategy for Victory in Iraq (November 2005), http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/iraq/iraq_national_strategy_20051130.pdf.


B. The New Way Forward in Iraq


  • On January 10, 2007, President Bush announced a new Iraq strategy, entitled The New Way Forward in Iraq, which sought with the deployment of additional troops to end sectarian violence and achieve security in Iraq, especially in Baghdad, the epicenter of Iraq's violence. While deepening U.S. involvement in Iraq, the new strategy calculated that improved battlefield tactics and a greater commitment from the Iraqi government would result in success. The plan emphasized that Iraqi forces were to take the lead in military operations, with U.S. forces assisting their Iraqi counterparts in clearing and security neighborhood and serving as advisors. In conjunction with military operations, Iraqi political leaders would accelerate efforts to achieve national reconciliation, thus undermining the Sunni-dominated insurgency and Iraq's descent into civil war.

    Major Strategic Shifts
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    Key Operational Shifts
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    Key Tactical Shifts
    Click to enlarge

    Source: Highlights of the Iraq Strategy Review (January 2007). Available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/iraq/2007/iraq-strategy011007.pdf.




    3. The Surge


    A. US and Coalition Troop levels in Iraq
    Click to enlarge

    Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.




    B. Disposition of Military Forces in Iraq

    Click to enlarge

    Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.




    B. Iraqi Security Forces Capabilities
    Click to enlarge

    Source: Slides to Accompany Congressional Testimony of General Petraeus (Sept. 10-11, 2007). Available at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/Petraeus-Testimony-Slides20070910.pdf.




    C. Results of the Surge


    Iraq Violence Trends
    Click to enlarge

    Source: Slides to Accompany Congressional Testimony of General Petraeus (Sept. 10-11, 2007). Available at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/Petraeus-Testimony-Slides20070910.pdf.




      • Some analysts argue that the surge may not be directly responsible for the perceived reduction in violence, citing the "peace of the graveyard"-essentially, ethnic cleansing in Baghdad-and restraint by Shia militias, in addition to other factors. See Juan Cole, "Iraq's Three Civil Wars," Audit of Conventional Wisdom, MIT Center for International Studies, Feb 2008; Nir Rosen, "The Myth of the Surge," Rolling Stone, Feb. 2008; and the International Crisis Group Feb. 2008 report, Iraq's Civil War, the Sadrists and the Surge
      • Early in 2008, violence appeared to be rising again, though not to the levels experienced in 2006 and early 2007.

    4. Casualties in Iraq
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    a. Overview of U.S. Casualties in Iraq
    Click to enlarge

    Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.




    b. Coalition Casualties

    Click to enlarge

    Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.




    c. Iraqi Military and Police Casualties
    Click to enlarge

    Source: Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.





    d. Iraqi Civilian Casualties


    Estimates of Iraqi Civilian Killed by Violence:


      In a study published in the Lancet by a group of researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Al Mustansiriya School of Medicine in Iraq, in conjunction with the MIT Center for International Studies, 654,965 Iraqis have died since the initial invasion as of July 2006. Of these post-invasion deaths, 601,027 were due to violent causes. The number was estimated from 1850 household interviews randomly selected countrywide.


      A survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Health found that 151,000 Iraqis died as a result of violence as of June 2006; the data, which likely underestimates deaths by violence, also indicates another 250,000 "excess deaths" from the war due to poor health care, etc.


      All surveys would indicate about 600,000-700,000 or more "excess deaths" since the U.S. invasion.


      For the articles, analysis, and the controversy surrounding mortality estimates, see the MIT web site, Iraq: The Human Cost.



    6. Political, Economic, and Humanitarian Conditions in Iraq

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    a. Political Situation



    b. Economic Situation


    Oil Revenue from Exports
    Click to enlarge

    Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at ?http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.




    ii. Electricity
    Click to enlarge

    Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.




    iii. Unemployment
    Click to enlarge

    Source: Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.




    c. Humanitarian Situation: Refugees, Crime, Social Services, Human Rights


    The war has created millions of newly displaced Iraqis, with hundreds of thousands having fled to Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Iran, among other destinations. See the 2007 year in review by the U.N.'s International Migration Organization. UNHCR, the U.N. agency for refugees and internally displaced, has regular reports on the situation.


    Crime is widely perceived to persist at high levels, "street" crime against persons and against property, although reliable estimates are unavailable. The growth of kidnapping, Iraqis incarcerated, and a few other statistics indicate a sizable criminal problem.


    The provision of social services is also considered to be weakened by the war, notably health care (see the Iraq Family Health Survey). Doctors and other health care professionals have been targets of killings, and many have left the country.


    A number of knowledgeable observers are concerned about the human rights situation in Iraq, despite improvements since the Saddam era. Women's rights in particular are in jeopardy due to intense pressure from strict religious practitioners. See also Human Rights Watch's reports.


    Other resources:


    U.N. Mission in Iraq: http://www.uniraq.org/


    Relief Web - Iraq


    Iraq: The Human Cost: http://mit.edu/humancostiraq


    Additional Reading
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    Thomas E. Ricks, FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: Penguin Press, 2006).


    Patrick Cockburn, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (London: Verso, 2007)


    Eric Herring and Glen Rangwala, Iraq in Fragments: The Occupation and Its Legacy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006)


    Barry Posen, "Exit Strategy: How to disengage from Iraq in 18 months," Boston Review, Jan-Feb 2006. http://bostonreview.net/BR31.1/posen.html.


    Ahmed S. Hashim, Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2006).


    Stephen Biddle, "Seeing Baghdad, Thinking Saigon," Foreign Affairs, vol. 85, no. 2 (Mar-Apr 2006), pp. 2-14.


    Anthony H. Cordesman, Options for Iraq: The Almost Good, the Bad, the Ugly (Washington, DC: CSIS, October 11, 2006), available at http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/061011_iraqoptions.pdf.


    Larry Diamond et al, "What to Do in Iraq: A Roundtable" Foreign Affairs (July/August 2006).


    Michael R. Gordon and General Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (New York: Pantheon Books, 2006).


    Kenneth Katzman, Iraq: Elections, Government, and Constitution (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, October 3, 2006), available at http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/73927.pdf.


    Kenneth Katzman, Iraq: Post-Saddam Governance and Security (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, September 22, 2006), available at http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/73939.pdf.


    Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., "How to Win in Iraq," Foreign Affairs, vol. 84, no. 5 (September/October 2005).


    Vali Nasr, "When the Shiites Rise," Foreign Affairs, (July-August 2006).


    Footnotes
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    1. For full text of the President Bush's address to the nation, see "President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended," http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/05/20030501-15.html


    2. James A. Baker, III and Lee H. Hamilton, Co-Chairs, The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward -- A New Approach. (New York: Vintage Books, 2006). A copy of the report is available online at http://www.usip.org/isg/iraq_study_group_report/report/1206/index.html.


    3. Fred W. Kaplan, Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 2007). Available at http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.25396/pub_detail.asp.


    4. President's Address to the Nation (January 10, 2007). Available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070110-7.html.


    5. Ibid.


    6. Michael O'Hanlon and Nina Kamp, Iraq Index: Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq (January 31, 2008), available at http://www.brookings.edu/iraqindex.


    7. General David H. Petraeus, Report to Congress on Situation in Iraq (Sept. 10-11, 2007). Testimony available at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/Petraeus-Testimony20070910.pdf.


 
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