Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 14:36 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 14:36 | SYDNEY

More than a glimmer of hope in Iraq

30 June 2008 10:13

Guest blogger:  Jason H. Campbell (pictured) is a research analyst in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC

Don’t look now but things are getting better in Iraq. A quick perusal of the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index, a compilation of quantifiable metrics dating back to the fall of Saddam Hussein (and co-authored by yours truly), provides enough objective evidence to see that there remains at the very least a glimmer of hope for sustainable stability.    

Thus far the most dramatic improvement has been in the security realm. Curbing civil violence is the most crucial aspect of promoting any stable society. After nearly two years of horrific sectarian bloodshed, civilian fatalities have dropped to figures not seen since the early months of the war and the number of large scale bombings has dipped to a mere fraction of where it was only a year ago. With less killing comes less upheaval and the numbers of civilians displaced by violence has declined accordingly. Additionally, US and Iraqi security forces are being killed at a fraction of the rates seen in 2006 and 2007. Perhaps most importantly, the Iraqi security forces are with very few exceptions showing up to fight when called upon and performing at levels their American mentors were unsure they would ever attain. 

On the political front, Iraqis, no longer occupied solely with surviving through the day, are demanding increased accountability from their leaders. One of the results of this bottom-up pressure has been a much greater willingness on the part of Iraqi politicians to cross ethno-sectarian lines and come to compromises on vital issues. Since late 2007, the Iraqi parliament has passed laws that address such important issues as the national budget, amnesty for those imprisoned without evidence, revisions on de-Baathification, provincial powers and local elections.

From an economic standpoint, GDP has been growing consistently and the astronomical price of oil has made the Iraqi treasury flush with record funds, which are now being distributed more equitably throughout the provinces.

So overall, the statistical 'arrow' in Iraq is pointing up. That does not mean recent progress is either sustainable or sufficient. Great strides need to be made in areas such as reconciliation, corruption and services, to name only a few. What these figures can do is provide those conducting the debate on how to proceed in Iraq with an impartial base from which such crucial decisions can be made.