Is Iraq getting better?

Is Iraq getting better? The statistics say so, across the board.

The figures put as a justification of military success are still unconvincing. They are dealt with in terms of statistics. They seem like figures by a company which was on the brink of bankruptcy but now things look better for it as the deficit has been replaced by profit. On the humanitarian issue, a single life matters. It is said that in BBC Jim Muir report that “The US military admit that around 13% of Baghdad – mainly parts of the huge eastern Shia suburbs, Sadr City, where the Mehdi Army used to hold undisputed sway – remain to be brought fully under control. This means the potential of future increasing trouble is still there. Admittedly, the US military and administration aren’t crying victory yet but simply things are getting better. Things will get better when security is total and when there is national unity more solid than minor and tribal differences and finally when the ordinary Iraqis start having a better living standard.

The situation in Iraq still remains unpredictable as the figures about violence casualties shouldn’t be seen as the barometer of political success. Iraq is still far from returning to total normality as everyone has to be on the alert. There is still political wrangling among the main sections of Iraq, Kurds, Sunnis and Shiaas about power sharing.

It may be argued that security is a priority for political stability. But the fall in the recurrence of violence won’t quickly be an encouraging sign for the Iraqis to move freely without looking around them. Important personalities still have to be surrounded by heavily armed guards. The green zone remains fortified. Poverty is still roaming making millions malnourished, short of water and electricity. Unemployment is still there while qualified Iraqis, especially doctors, are leaving the country.

Iraqi refugees aren’t going to start coming back to a country still torn and wounded by the scars of past savage violence that claimed hundreds of thousands of people from all sides. This means pressure will remain on neighbouring countries where they have taken refuge, especially Jordan and Syria.

For the US, this doesn’t mean a quick pullout or a substantial reduction in troops and military budget. The Bush administration has apparently achieved this level of violence reduction by having sent 30,000 extra troops and allocating new military budgets in billions of dollars. A steep slide in violence can be advantageous to George Bush who will end his presidency feeling that he has accomplished his mission, regardless of the unpopularity he has got at home and abroad. This can make the job of the new administration easy as it will reap the fruits of Iraq invasion through colossal investments which will keep the US economy going and the US treasury getting back what has been spent on the war.

As the security situation in Iraq is fundamentally the concern of the Iraqis who have been paying for the current crisis in death and injuries, it’s unlikely the demographic aspect of Iraq will be restored to what it was like before the invasion and the start of violence. Baghdad as well as other areas where the Sunnis and the Shiaas used to live side by side will have the aspect of segregated areas.

The apparent improving situation in Iraq can be just a lull as the roots of the currents violence aren’t eradicated. Iraq is still far from having a national security force and army as it is known in stable countries. Currently, the Iraqis forces can’t impose law and order without having coalition forces led by the US on their side. Arms are still in the hands of powerful militias like Moqtada Sadr’s militias or the Mehdi Army. Differences can erupt at any time on the issue of oil revenues and power sharing. Each section is seeking to get more rather than give more through negotiations. Iraq will remain a no-go area in most parts as safety remains a concern. The fact that some American diplomats refused to join the US embassy in Baghdad explains to what extent Iraq is still a dangerous place, especially for the Americans whose army has a heavy presence there.

So in general, the “improving” situation in Iraq can be just good news for the military (the direct target of violence) and the politicians who try to capitalise on it. For Iraq as a country it will need years, if not decades, to get back to normal as the US and its allies will need more years of heavy presence to make sure things are under control according to their political agenda.

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