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The Week in Iraq is a weekly assessment of significant incidents and trends in Iraqi civilian casualties by IBC's news collector and Recent Events editor Lily Hamourtziadou.

The analyses and opinions presented in these commentaries are personal to the author.

Recent weeks

Healing the wounds of the past
  18 Jan 2009

Happy New Year
  11 Jan 2009

The sad numbers
  31 Dec 2008

  21 Dec 2008

The farewell kiss
  14 Dec 2008

Regrets –he’s had a few…
  7 Dec 2008


The Week in Iraq

...and rising: Iraq 2006

by Lily Hamourtziadou

24 Dec 2006

Violence in Iraq is rising at an ‘unbelievably rapid pace’, according to the Pentagon’s latest assessment of the security situation. It is now higher than at any time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The quarterly report ‘Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq’ said the level of violence in Iraq ‘in all specific measurable categories’ has reached ‘the highest level on record’ and poses a ‘grave threat’ to the Iraqi government. Iraqi civilians have paid the heaviest price, as their casualty rate has remained 60% higher than in February, when the Golden Mosque was bombed. The number of attacks on US and Iraqi troops, as well as civilians, has risen to almost 1,000 a week, in recent months, between 12 August and 10 November. This constitutes a 22% increase in attacks and a 2% jump in civilians casualties, compared to the three previous months. Most casualties were Iraqi, despite the fact that 68% of the attacks targeted US-led coalition troops. The report further said that that Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia has replaced al-Qaeda in Iraq as the single largest threat to the country’s security. President Bush acknowledged that 2006 had been a grim year: ‘The enemies of liberty…carried out a deliberate strategy to foment sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shia,’ he said, ‘and over the course of the year they had success.’ According to a survey published on 20 December, two thirds of Americans now oppose the war.
As the violence and the casualties are rising, the number of American troops is also rising, shooting up to 142,000, with plans to send an additional 20,000-30,000 troops to Iraq in the new year. Consequently, the financial cost of this war is on the rise too, with the US currently spending $8 billion per month in Iraq, according to the Iraq Study Group.

Meanwhile, the human cost of this war reached 600 this week.

On Monday 18 December 100 civilians die in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad. Dozens of dead bodies are found in Baghdad, Mosul, Samawa and Baquba, while in Hit 3 women are shot dead by US soldiers shooting randomly, after coming under fire.

Nearly 100 die on Tuesday 19 December, including 3 children, a preacher, a wrestler and a coach of the Olympic bicycle team. US forces shoot dead an advisor for the Iraqi Culture Ministry as he is repairing a flat tyre on the highway to Baghdad in Southern Tikrit.

More than 120 die on Wednesday 20 December, a Palestinian teacher among them. As the new US Defense Secretary pays Iraq a ‘surprise’ visit, 76 bodies are found in Baghdad –a record number of dead bodies found in 24 hours.

The dead again exceed 100 on Thursday 21 December. Another Palestinian is killed, 15 police recruits are blown up, while US forces shoot dead 2 civilians in Baquba and 2 more in Ramadi. Among Thursday’s dead, 2 women killed while shopping at the market, a teacher, and more than 60 bodies found bound and tortured in Baghdad, Mosul, Baquba and Kut.

On Friday 22 December there are only 36 reported deaths, among them the killing of an 11-year-old in Samawa. In an audiotape posted on Islamic Web sites, the leader of an umbrella organisation for Iraqi insurgent groups offers the US a one-month truce to withdraw all US forces from Iraq. The Mujahideen Shura Council is an umbrella group formed in late 2005 that includes several terrorist and insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq. The US is given two weeks to respond to the offer. On Friday it is reported that an increasing number of Palestinians arrive at the Iraq-Syria border daily, to escape violence in Iraq. There are an estimated 15,000 Palestinians remaining in Iraq, out of 34,000 in 2003.

On Saturday 23 December over 70 die, among them a pregnant mother killed in a US air raid with her 4-year-old child and 4 other civilians in Baquba.

On Sunday 24 December another 60 are killed, 14 of them policemen. It is reported that 3,000 Iraqis are leaving the country every day.

‘We simply cannot afford to fail in the Middle East,’ Robert Gates, new Defense Secretary, said on Monday, hours before the Pentagon report was released. ‘Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility, and endanger Americans for decades to come’ (Associated Press 18 December 2006). It may already be too late. As the violence rises in Iraq, it feeds the global jihadi network with recruits, propaganda and extremist ideology. Al-Qaeda followers have taken full advantage of the chaotic security situation left by the invasion and the decision to disband the Iraqi army.
In Iraq, nowhere outside the fortified Green Zone is safe. In the western world, we have not been less safe in a long time.