14 May 2007

Looking at Brookings and the Iraq Index

My thanks to larwyn for pointing me to American Thinker article: The Missing Context in Media Reporting on Iraq By Gerd Schroeder. And from there on to the Brookings Institute and its Iraq Index. What follows is a basic look at the numbers, which I am *not* going to take forever and three days copying and pasting over.

The Brookings Institution has done a summary of its on-going findings in Iraq covering a broad array of issues and topics. This is, perhaps, one of the broadest looks at the entire Nation taken and is, thankfully, ongoing. Their latest (in pdf form) is here. Now instead of piecemeal and having to scramble around for sources, basic summary numbers can be seen and analyzed at a 'one stop shop' that even includes views on *other* studies and number sources. So you can see how they get to their numbers in comparison to other folks.

While they want to concentrate on 'the surge' numbers up top, the trends are the more telling things in this sort of report and give a deeper picture of how Iraq is changing good, bad and indifferent. One does not hawk just the good or just the bad, but takes a broader and contextual view of things and, when some deeper numbers appear to have out-of-context reports, then looking into those are necessary. Hopefully *that* can be kept to a minimum.

On the surge, on p. 9 is the summary of Civilian Deaths due to insurgent violence two months prior to it and the first two months of it, which saw a heavy escalation in explosions and such (mentioned later). The summary deaths are *down* and sharply overall, with only 'Suicide Bombings' (vest bombs and VBIEDs) rising. These are, of course, the more telegenic forms of attack, and garner the most visibility and are, generally, the easiest to carry off as the bomber is expendable.

Further on p. 9 we can see the estimated number of Iraqis killed per month (all sources) is down from a high in NOV 2006 by a bit more than 20% although just 10% up from FEB 2007.

Looking at US troop fatalities on p.11 one minor, but interesting artifact is that Operation Together Forward, the last attempt pre-surge to deal with Baghdad violence did work, but only for a limited time as it had no follow-on for sustainment of its stabilizing effects. When the troops left areas, the violence returned. This is part of the change of Counter-Insurgency work so as to leave useful forms of stabilization capability not only in military and police roles, but in civilian recovery and infrastructure roles.

That stabilization is taking place due to Iraqi Military and Police units stepping into that stabilization role. As seen on p.15 the initial deployment of limited troops and police by Iraqis met with a high death toll. What has happened is that the number of their forces have drastically increased and their competence and confidence have similarly increased as seen on p.32. That FEB-JUN 2005 period marked the first full deployment of police and military capability that had been slowly worked out during the previous two years. Finally amalgamating National Guard and Army duties and working out Border duties between police and military allowed for fewer and more well defined organizations to finally come into being. This was the period where so many decried the 'incompetence of the Iraqis' before they had actually gotten trained, equipped, and had their duties straightened out. Color me non-plussed at the time as that was evident by what was going on. By doing that these organizations have worked out plans for figuring out their necessary sizes to cover areas of operation and even had projected end-strength goals of their OWN to meet by the end of 2006.

Both the military and police organizations are now hard at work estimating what will be needed for their increased duties this year, and the military side is looking to stand up more air force capability, at least two more full divisions, possibly *another* armored division, and take on coastal and riverine duties. At this point in time there are more police officers than total American Armed Forces and almost as many Iraqi military forces as Total American Armed Forces and those are both projected to increase. US force size and composition has bounced up and down over time, pointing to difficulties in getting a long-term strategy in place, seeing its effects and adjusting as necessary. Many things have been tried, and a few of them have failed, but the learning curve is finally grabbing hold of events and an understanding of what it takes to actually get a successful plan made is getting into shape. Expect more set-backs and changes as there is an enemy out there.

On p. 33 we get to see what the enemy is doing: staging lots of attacks. Insurgent responses have been to MNF and Iraqi changes in plans, and reflect the ups and downs of that. The late 2005 Riverine Offensive to shift to Tal Afar is directly mirrored by increased insurgent attacks, while those drop very quickly once offensive. Similarly Operation Together Forward in JUN-OCT 2006 saw an uptick in violence and that was augmented by the first establishment of Sunni police from the Tribes in Anbar over that period. These two operations overlap and the build up late in 2006 is a demonstration of preparations by insurgents to address 'the surge'.

The political front on p. 10 shows the logjam in the Iraqi Parliament and the slow workings of it. The Oil Revenue Sharing plan and Repeal of some of the de-Ba'athification laws are still in the stages of work prior to voting. Better election laws and getting the summer provincial elections scheduled haven't made progress, but the elections previously held were ones scheduled by the US and MNF, and getting these things worked out in a parliament can take time. Similarly there is no law on disbanding the militias, although the Iraqi Army has been given the go-ahead by al-Maliki to just kill them, which is a good exercise of Prime Ministerial power to remove insurgents. On Sunni reforms: they have taken a back seat due to less than full Sunni participation on previous things.

The true bright spot is the Anbar Awakening council forming into Iraq Awakening which will be a Tribal/Provincial based movement starting in Anbar and the Tribes are now working in Diyala to get it spread there. This is the most significant progress done with the Sunni's to date as it will give them increased say on local and provincial matters and will be the FIRST party based on true Tribal and Provincial outlooks as a cooperative arrangement. Three long years of working with the Tribes in Anbar and other provinces may finally yield the very first of its kind Arab 'bottom up' party not seeking insurgency/jihad/tribal squabbles but working with other Tribes to give Iraq grass-roots National support. Outside of the Kurdish provinces, this is unknown.

From the Political Freedom Index on p. 33, a derived Index of multiple things like property rights and such, Iraq currently hits about where the Palestinian territories are, which are below Israel, Lebanon and Morocco, but above Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Algeria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Libya (in order, selected interesting Nations by the author).

From p. 34 we get a view on Press Freedom which puts Iraq pretty far down the list, behind Libya and Syria, but ahead of such notables as Vietnam, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Cuba, and way ahead of North Korea. Further in Iraq there were 300 political parties listed for the 2005 elections, which knocks that of most other Nations and points to the highly factionalized atmosphere left over from the Saddam era. The Nation had been so heavily turned against itself that 500 separate parties could identify themselves as separate factions. Even Italy never got to that! Actually, this is a good thing to start with so many parties as it then allows for coalition and cooperation to form newer and broader based parties over time. This is necessary in the provinces and I would expect that a few parties that have little in the way of National presence will find actual voice in the provinces. Perhaps something less than 100 parties able to gain voice, say... but still a far more vibrant form of democracy than is seen in other parts of the world.

On the civil administration side for getting criminals behind bars, p. 43 now shows there to be a growing court system in Iraq, that is still only about 60% of need. It takes a long time to get judges trained in how to *be* a judge, and that initial surge of older lawyers and judges being re-educated must now slow as new judges are trained. This will take time and expect to hear about an 'overburdened court system' there. Just like in America!

Now for the brass tacks sort of stuff on p. 35. The economy of Iraq has changed in a huge way since the Saddam era and is *still* undergoing changes as it has not stood up fully yet. With the oil production chart we get a look at the hard and fast limits of the Soviet era technology that was additionally degraded by lack of maintenance and oversight for decades. Just enough to keep it running under Saddam, but not much else. The estimates I have seen prior to this put the potential for that infrastructure for oil at 2.3 million barrels per day, and the current production is at the 90% mark of that. Actually, that is sustainable, given the infrastructure. What is changing that is *new* equipment and replacement of older equipment slowly happening. The oil forecast is even brighter, which I went over in this post. Part of the fortuitous joining of Anbar tribes is the revision upwards of the oil reserves there, and that puts the Sunni Arabs in a much better position economically and in the Nation as a whole. That said the entire infrastructure left over from the Saddam era needs replacement from top to bottom and that is a 20 year outlook at the very least.

New production, however, backed by Western and Japanese interests will push the overall production up, over time, and as re-investment and maintenance take place those will also incrementally improve the situation. Saddam exported nearly ALL of the oil and kept very little for internal use for Iraqis, and the lack of refining infrastructure shows that. The early push to get everything working showed short-term promise, of course, and bought time, but the sustainability issues can be put off no longer. You cannot continue at peak utilization of old equipment like that and expect to have a long-term production and refining capability. Getting that maintenance schedule up and running for regular, annual maintenance is imperative and we are now starting to see some of the cyclicity. This means that the performance of the system will gradually improve, but that the time to start investing in future exploration and refining is *now*.

To gloss over p. 36 would be to miss that cyclicity and the variability of the oil market itself. Iraq will see month-to-month contractual changes in oil prices and getting a firm export amount will help to stabilize that and get longer term contracts in place. Japan is foremost in wanting to do that and are willing to bring some of the best expertise to the table to *get there*. After the Japan (as seen on p. 40) has the largest vested interest in Iraq and over the long haul their needs are far more important than ours and they are shelling out about HALF of the non-US Nation State aid to Iraq. Japan is only now starting to upsize its Navy and Armed Forces and looking to get a Constitutional change to allow Armed Forces to operate offensively overseas. This is a hard sell to Japan, but there is a basic recognition of stagnation there if supplies cannot be gotten into trustworthy hands. In a decade there may actually be a real military presence from Japan to do that, but it will be a long time coming. So their looking to invest *now* means a long term change over for them and their overall support of Iraq.

On to p. 37 we see the electricity situation, which the US Army Corps of Engineers place on a cycle where their last involvement would end around 2015. Let me point out that the pre-war Saddam era electrical production capability may have been a maximum if all the equipment worked. It didn't, as USACE pointed out, and much of it had been converted from natural gas to crude oil and has to be re-converted back to natural gas. Here, and again, this is mostly old Soviet and French technology, and it has suffered the similar neglect of the oil infrastructure. Production capabilities rarely meet optimum output and even more rarely maximum output, so putting a figure that by all accounts was the maximum output for the Saddam era and comparing it to daily sustainable output is a bit misleading. The existing plants are old to nearly obsolete and end of life-cycle so that entire gas/petroleum fired set of plants needs to be replaced. Any other sources would be handy, of course, but hydro-electric and distributed sources will only yield a fraction of what is necessary to run the Nation. That said they are still getting more daily electrical use than is Syria. A final problem is the purchase of televisions, computers, and all sorts of other electrical equipment by individuals and families in Iraq: that is making things difficult to handle, and the pre-war use basis was on minimal availability of such things. Getting to as much availability with a much higher load is a hard job to do, which is why more power generation ability is needed above and beyond just pre-war supplies.

Water and sewage projects have been a top concern, also, and of all places that show the differences between maximum and optimal use, it is here. The corrosive effects of water and sewage means that equipment will, literally, rust away if maintenance is not done regularly, and p. 45 shows that clearly. Much of the Saddam era capacity was targeted towards Baghdad and a few other places and the rest of the infrastructure rusted. Decrepit is not the word for it, upon arriving in Iraq, and the work of just getting pipes in to replace old pipes, get pumping stations working and make sure that the water and sewage lines were not damaged has eaten up a lot of time and budget. This is one of the areas that Iraqis are shifting into the fastest, after security, as the ability to get clean water to people and remove and treat sewage is vital. For all of that Saddam era treatment capacity, raw sewage was dumped straight into rivers. That alone points out the difference between theoretical capacity and actual capacity. In cities outside of Baghdad some facilities were just overgrown with weeds and such, so this is a very long-term infrastructure need of Iraq. Amazing that what has been restored or gotten to some places for the *first time ever* has allowed the revitalization of the agriculture sector and businesses to re-open.

Thus we come to p. 41 and GDP figures, which have been damned hard to come by! Iraq has gotten its act together on the economy, although much still has to be done as noted above. That traditional non-oil GDP percentage is sitting at 1/3 of the economy and desperately needs to change to at least 50%, in my opinion, over the next 5-7 years. That 30% inflation rate shows the problems with the economy, and the prior problems of estimating such in previous years. The p.42 chart on this shows it higher, but mostly to start re-aligning fuel prices with the world market and NOT subsidize it. Plus as seen on p.43, the differential between the two is extremely *high* and to not run into an Iranian situation with runaway internal use, the linking of such things as gasoline and diesel fuel to world prices is necessary. Of all things, Iraqis did not like that very much at all, but it is absolutely necessary to get fuel consumption under control, but then they went on a car buying spree as seen on p. 44. Restrictions to *new cars only* were put in place, but Iraq is still a smuggler's haven for cars, so the increased mpg of newer cars will not show up any time soon.

Now that there are real, internal organs of government able to look at this, we can see that reaching the goal of the IMF to 15% is a hard one. Early forecasts have not proven out due to over-optimism. With that said a stable manufacturing base for Iraq will bring that down quickly as capital investment and jobs start to give consumer confidence for longer-term expenditures. Here is where getting the security situation in hand helps in multiple ways: it allows for longer-term spending for business and industry to happen, spreads jobs and increases stability and confidence in the future. You can't get industrial production without infrastructure, and you can't get that without a secure environment that allows for long-term investment with expectations of payback on that investment.

From p. 41 is the Iraqi debt structure which has changed downwards from 2004. A lot of that is forgiveness on the part of many companies and countries on Saddam era debt. Re-structuring of re-payment schedules has also meant a lower payment amount and may stretch out some debt but allows for it to be manageable. That largest payoff, however, has been due to Private Creditors and is a huge plus mark for recognizing that private investment and reliability are necessary for future financial growth. Those that have been willing to re-structure debt via the Paris Club have also seen gains and losses, but that is a big plus for Iraq financially. That leaves those still holding Saddam era debt and the need to purchase equipment and supplies from various Nations that do not have a debt relief or forgiveness policy in place, and that has grown by 11% in terms of dollars and now is the largest source of debt for Iraq.

Finally there is the personal liberty and freedom side of Iraq, left unaddressed by most articles and pundits. Starting from p. 43 we can see that the use of telephones has been a major business in Iraq and here the ease of setting up cell phone towers and putting up a digital network has far outstripped the ancient land-line infrastructure. The previous estimates were based on using ONLY land lines and supplementing here and there with cell phones, but the companies of the region have all chipped in along with many others to start getting a new, wireless infrastructure in place for communications. It is quite possible that Iraq will be one of the first 'all wireless telephone' Nations with wired phones making up only a few percent of all telephones. That is the trend we are seeing today and laying communication lines only for long-haul telecomm is far cheaper than wiring out to individual homes and offices. This is just a reflection of a global trend that started a decade ago, and third-world and developing Nations will reap the most benefit of this.

Along with telephones we now see personal computers (p. 44) and cell phone enabled web-surfing as a major growth area for Iraq. Internal to the Nation is an entire set of web sites that we, in the English speaking world, have little insight into. This intra-Iraq communication venue is also changing viewpoints on how information flows and what good government means to Iraqis. There is also a utilization of the older media which has flourished under the removal of Saddam era restrictions. There were NO commercial television or radio stations and no independent newspapers or magazines under Saddam. Zero. That has changed immensely with 54 commercial TV stations, 114 radio stations and 268 independent newspapers and magazines (dailies, weeklies and monthlies). That is why so much in the way of electronic equipment is being sold: there are new ways to gain entertainment, news and other programs. Plus various political parties, social groups, and all sorts of other forms of journalism are seeing a massive upsurge in Iraq.

On unemployment, I never did trust those first figures from the standing up of the Central Bank, way back when, so these are a bit better, for all the fact they are estimates. This entire area is wholly depending upon the basic infrastructure stand-up so that factories and manufacturing capability can stand up in places like Ramadi and other towns and cities. That is *finally* happening this year and Ramadi looks to be a focal point for that, although other cities and towns have just as desperate a need for their workforce to actually *do something*. Ramadi is important as it is a lever point between Baghdad and Tal Afar: flex Ramadi and the entire length of Anbar will be effected. Investing in jobs and production capabilities means that employment spreads for subsidiary jobs and then outwards as more work needs to be done. Ramadi, alone, can employ just 200,000 or so folks at its factories and that does not include: transport, delivery, supply companies, waste management and so on. Standing up production at a factory is a huge boost to the economy and doing that at multiple places not only employs people there, but at the support industries for those factories. That cannot be done with a lawless insurgency happening, and these numbers should show diminishment as production comes on-line. Right now, seen on p. 56, Iraqis rate the economy as poor by a majority at 59%.

More children are getting educated, as seen on p. 45, with enrollment being far from universal, but increasing. This is a long-term vital area for the Iraqis to get the majority of people educated in even the basics, which is a prime concern for a Nation that used to pride itself in its educational capabilities.

Putting it all together puts us in p. 46 and the various polls taken in Iraq, and the outlook of Iraqis on their Nation. It is unsurprising that Security and Political/Military concerns eat up nearly 80% of all concerns for the population. Doing some break-outs on the basic which way is the Nation going, we see the Ethnic and Sectarian differences showing up. Sunni Arabs don't like being out of power and think things are going badly. Shia Arabs are about evenly split which is a huge improvement as if you could take something like this under Saddam the then/now contrast in that community would be startling to *get* to 50% on the good side. The Kurds are more highly optimistic and less pessimistic which is based on their long standing outlook as a culture and the ability to have some self-rule without Saddam. They have a better 'feel' for things with self-direction and only worry in the 'Quite Bad' area by 30%.

The largest split on p. 47 is a direct reflection of these changes: who controls Iraq? In the Shia Arab and Sunni Kurdish communities it is overwhelmingly in favor of Iraqis now controlling the Nation while the Sunni Arabs think that it is the US. That needs to change starting at the tribal basis and may do so with provincial elections and Sunni political parties actually gaining control of local governments by vote. Further on p. 47 is the basic resentment of the Coalition Forces in Iraq by the Arab communities, Sunni and Shia, and the overwhelming support for it by the Kurdish community.

Given these things looking at the basics of will your child be better off than you are question we see Better winning out over worse and by a 2:1 Nation-wide over the same. Again the Sunni Kurd and Shia Arab communities see better by 50% and 66%, which balances out the Sunni Arab 6%, and this is also a factor of lack of jobs, and such in Iraq and the lack of Sunni Arab buy-in after being in power for so long. This strange dichotomy of 'not wanting the Coalition Forces' there, but seeing a brighter future while they are there is one that has been vexing, overall, particularly with the Arab Shia community. All groups think there should be a 'timeline for withdrawal' as cited on p. 57, which explains some of the feeling for foreigners having to fight in your own Nation. I have yet to see a poll asking if a 'timeline for withdrawal' will help or hurt Iraq, because the implied is that it will help. This idea of resentment of foreign forces, no matter how necessary they are, is somewhat sustained by the p. 52 approval of attacks on US led forces, which are pretty near saturation for the Sunni Arab and has nearly 2/3 approval from the Shia Arab. The next question on the Iraqi confidence in their own forces to protect them is, I believe, some of the highest you will see for that anywhere in the Middle East outside of Israel and Turkey. Thus a further question would be: 'do you believe that Iraqi forces could handle the violence without foreign help?' Yes, there are questions and there are real questions, and often the implied of a question belies what is not being asked.

Again the internal breaks for who Approves (p. 48) of the Prime Minister's job handling is that of strongly majoritarian for Sunni Kurds and Shia Arab, and little from Sunni Arabs (broken out on p. 55). This is almost the same break-out for the National Assembly seen on p. 49 and the 'one year out' view.

Going to p. 48 and seeing the support for Unified Country, Regional States and Separate States, there has been a downward trend in Unified Country. This is, of course, an outgrowth of getting National politics rolling before Provincial politics and the first provincial elections and a few years with *that* will finally start to firm things up in this. Strange to say, but I do not think that provincial government will firm up support for a non-unified Nation. As soon as you can put a *real face* to local politics it goes from something unknown and possibly palatable, to something known and run by politicians. Another decade or so should demonstrate full trends here, and the 5-year outlook on p. 53 supports a Unified State. Also the view on corruption being a major problem in Iraqi politics is overwhelming with 43% citing 'a lot' and 22% citing 'some' (p. 56).

A fun statistic is the internal view on the Civil War question of seeing if one is going on now. This breaks down along the three lines, and I think a basic idea is as follows:

Sunni Arabs - "Of course there is, the Shia's need *someone* to rule them."
Shia Arabs - "What? No Civil War... a bit of payback for what was done to us..."
Kurds - "Arabs are *always* finding a reason to fight."
Probably very un-PC of me to see it that way! On p. 50 is about the only misleading graph I've seen at this point, and that is one that lumps the Sunnis together for a 'Sectarian violence' improving question. This does not show the problems of regions and the opinion of the Kurds, which the Irbil line clearly shows. This one is a story not told in the light of the way previous questions were broken out and obfuscates complexity by trying to make pure Sectarian views the only ones, while regional outlook is also a prime factor.

For all the conflict going on, however, on p. 50 the question of 'Has anyone you known moved away the last four years due to security concerns, the overwhelming majority at 72% Nationally is known. Here, I would expect any breakout to show that Sunni Arab population has fled, but that the Kurds, in particular would say almost no one has moved.

Startlingly on p. 51, the majority of ALL murders and kidnappings are in Baghdad. Basically the Kurds are secure, the Shia areas more or less secure and the Sunni areas likewise. Yes, the violence in Baghdad has been bad and very much so. Most of the rest of the Nation has seen only sporadic violence in comparison. That said 3/4 of Iraqis rate the security situation poor in Iraq overall.

The Right/Wrong direction for the Nation graph is interesting in that it hits a low point for 'Right Direction' in Spring 2006 just after the Riverine campaign and then heads steadily upwards again. The 'Wrong Direction' has been sharply up and down since Fall of 2005 and it is hard to see any trend there, save that of Sunni Arab resentment due to the clearing of the Riverine area and the concentration of violence in Anbar. It will be interesting to see if that reverses down again, and what the 'Right Direction' will do with that. However there is one thing that *everyone* agrees upon in Iraq, and that is on p. 53: A strong government that will get rid of Militias. The Shia Arab have the *lowest* percentage on that at 65%, the Kurds at 82% and the Sunnis at 100%! Now if they would only stop *joining them*.

The overall Ethnic and Religious break-out of Iraq still puts forward the main views of the Nation: Shia Arabs are generally optimistic and glad to be free of Saddam, the Kurds are quite optimistic of the future and the Sunni Arabs are still resentful, as of the dates of those polls regarding such, and see themselves being unfairly targeted and have problems dealing with a future in which they are not in control. Resentment of foreign forces is across the board and the support for the Iraqi forces is surprisingly high, and much higher than most other Middle Eastern States that use those forces for internal repression. That is, actually, a very healthy sign of Iraqis willingness to support their Nation so that they can learn to take care of themselves, and it is their political class that has to look towards tempering that emotional need with the hard reality of building an Army and a society which is self-sustaining, of which neither will happen quickly nor easily.

Getting the economy actually started is the next major step in Iraq. Infrastructure, though only at about half-capability, is enough to sustain actual manufacturing at some locations and start the employment and jobs cycle going. The banking infrastructure still needs work, but the view of getting that *right* before allowing foreign banks in is one that is not only realistic but necessary: it doesn't help to open up banks that will have drawing accounts for terrorists or for Saddam's stolen funds. An accountable system of banking and funds that support the local economy and encourages investment in it, is something that is necessary as part of the economic stand-up.

And the economy requires getting things secured to the point where Iraqis trust their own forces to handle things on their own. From the internal views that have been seen Iraq is about half-way to having a properly sized Army and Security Forces sector (National and Local Police). Just as Ramadi will flex the economy, Baghdad will flex the entire social structure of the Nation, and ridding it of violence and actually providing jobs to work at is necessary. The untold secret of the current 'surge' operations is that the Iraqi side of things is seeing a heavy influx of Kurdish units to handle Baghdad. No one wants to talk of *that* particularly the Left as it shatters the meme that the Kurds will not help the Arabs inside Iraq. It is that meme that has dragged down such analyses from multiple sources and finally needs to be put at rest once and for all. Luckily it is not just the Kurds and the fact that Arabs and Kurds can work together on this is perhaps the brightest sign from all of this.

There is a long way to go on clearing out the insurgency as it scrambles from Anbar to Diyala and now faces the Anbar Salvation folks working with the Tribes in Diyala to set up the same. Militias from Baghdad have either headed north, into Diyala, or east towards Basra where they seek some shelter due to the militias there. But what is securing Baghdad and Anbar is Iraqis with Coalition forces and the Reconstruction Teams, along with the interim team members. Changing tactics and outlook and encouraging cooperation and self-governance has shown major and positive results in places even Saddam could not govern well, if at all, with all the blood on his hands.

That is, apparently, a lesson that Americans forget: it is harder to build than to destroy, especially in the face of those that only destroy.

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