Republicans claim that the situation has improved drastically. I’ve not heard of as many soldier deaths but that could be because the press is getting bored. What’s happening over there?
Not much. How are things with you?
While the updates have dropped off, the Brookings Institution has published a list of various statistics about what’s going on in Iraq. It contains a lot of security related information, which I assume was the thrust of your question.
In brief, the trend has been a substantial decline in violence.
Most of the current activity (shooting, raids, hot spots) are in a few neighborhoods of Baghdad, provinces just to the north, Diyala at the Iranian border, and around Mosul. Most of the other activity is patrolling (air and ground), setting up work projects, and convoy activity. My specialty, ammunition, is quite slow. US troops are fully armed but shooting is way down. We fired more ammunition in training and testing than in actual combat recently.
In the hot spots, combat still gets very intense with ground, artillery, and air support called in. More of combat is targeted now based on intelligence, surveillance, and tips from the local populace. There are a lot fewer of the multi-thousand troop sweeps conducted. IEDs, suicide bombers, booby-trapped houses are a larger threat than a group storming an outpost.
Current strategy has troops withdrawing from outposts scattered in cities back to the main post nearby. Iraqi troops and police then take up the patrol activity in the city with US backup if needed.
Probably the largest area that needs to be addressed is border security. The border with Iran is very porous. The Iraqi border police are at the bottom of the totem pole for funding, training, and equipment.
Electricity is up, a prime measure of the government’s worth. Portions of our US base here just went on the local grid. Some large projects are ready to come on line and a neighborhood electrical generation project is underway. The electric infrastructure and power plants were in a deplorable state prior to the invasion and only got worse with sabotage, theft, and overloaded equipment failure. This crumbling cornerstone of the country was seriously overlooked in the planning for occupation. A continuing problem is getting the Iraqi bureaucracy to fund the work. The money is available but prying it loose and actually signing contracts take the most time.
Sounds like a success story! What do you think would happen if troops withdrew immediately or in three years? Is there hope among the populace that Iraq could be a democratic country in the near future?
I wish I had the insight to tell. Short term, no one has solved the Kurdish situation. Mosul will remain a hot spot for religious, ethnic, tribal, and monetary reasons (oil). Kurds really have no stake in a democratic Iraq.
Again short term, certain political/religious party leaders are still looking for power and revenge rather than reconciliation. A quick pull out would stall a lot of reconstruction because of renewed violence. A-Q is no longer a threat to carve out a state but would still stir up trouble to undermine the government and keep the unrest going. We’d see a break-away Kurdistan almost immediately.
I believe the ordinary populace is war weary and genuinely looking for a Saddam dividend. A period of stability, progress on reconstruction, and sensible government would go a long way toward “country building”. Still a lot of hate among the leaders, goes back generations.
My guess is three semi-autonomous states trending toward mini-countries like the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
Do you see it becoming a colony, more or less, of Iran?
P.S. What do you do there?
Iran and Iraq have too many differences. One factor is the Arab (Iraqi) and Persian (Iran) difference. There is still plenty of animosity over the Iran-Iraq war in the 80s (long memories). The Shiite holy sites are mostly in Iraq and the followers of Al-Sistani would not like to be infringed upon by the religious leadership in Iran. Iraq is still on the upswing for oil production (if the infrastructure gets rebuilt) and Iran may be winding down. I can’t see Iraq “sharing”, especially the Kurds.
Both countries have an established identity since after WWI and now have strong nationalist feelings (Iran) and what the US is trying to develop in Iraq.
I don’t see any sort of get together.
What do I do? Most anything to do with ammunition and explosives. Logistics, inspections, demolition, safety, risk management to name a few general topics. Yes, I do have all my fingers and toes!
I don’t know if you have had occasion to read The Devil We Know by Robert Baer, but he argues that through funding Shia Iraq and even Kurdistan, Iran is turning Iraq into a client state. He also argues that Sistani’s influence is challenged by Iran. Do you think that this is B.S.?
Good luck with explosives and continue to be careful.
No, I haven’t read Baer. // furiously adds to book list//
Past deployments here in Iraq (two), I had the opportunity to supervise a number of Iraqi contractors. We always ate lunch together and politics were the agenda EVERY day. US, Israeli, Iraqi, Iranian - all up for grabs. They had very simplistic views of the Zionists and US situations - almost like cardboard cutout stereotypes. Iran and Iraq were nuanced, referenced to history/scripture/pre-post Saddam. Always mentioned was a deep divide between the two countries.
Definitely Sistani is being challenged but he’s on his home court. IMHO, the “merchant” part of psyche here is all for accepting Iranian money but territorial ambition is a no go. They definitely see this aid as “strings attached”.
Other questions - perhaps a GD post: Back to post WWI, how could the countries been formed for a more lasting peace? Ethnic lines, religious, historical conquest, natural boundaries? Do the divisions here make anymore sense than the former European African colonial boundaries?
It’s a great question. Arbitrary lines drawn up on a map by conquerors and colonialists don’t tend to take deep religious/ethnic/cultural divides into consideration.
To them, they must just be lines on a map that serve to carve up their cultural and religious home.