Thursday, July 12, 2007

IBAR: The Overview

The Initial Benchmark Assessment Report (hereafter IBAR) starts with an overview of four areas being assessed with a summary of achievements and shortfalls:
1. Security:

Security: The security situation in Iraq remains complex and extremely challenging. Iraqi and Coalition Forces continue to emphasize population security operations in Baghdad, its environs, and Anbar province to combat extremist networks, and create the space for political reconciliation and economic growth. As a result of increased offensive operations, Coalition and Iraqi Forces have sustained increased attacks in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, Diyala, and Salah ad Din. Tough fighting should be expected through the summer as Coalition and Iraqi Forces seek to seize the initiative from early gains and shape conditions for longer-term stabilization.

...These new operations are targeting primarily al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) havens in Baghdad, Babil, Diyala, and Anbar provinces. While AQI may not account for most of the violence in Iraq, it is the organization responsible for the highest profile attacks, which serve as a primary accelerant to the underlying sectarian conflict. We presently assess that degrading AQI networks in these critical areas ‑‑ together with efforts to degrade Iranian-backed Shi’a extremist networks ‑‑ is a core U.S. national security interest and essential for Iraq’s longer-term stability. Since January of this year, AQI has proven its resiliency and ability to conduct high-profile, mass-casualty attacks, mostly targeting Shi’a population centers through suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIEDs) attacks. The number of suicide and SVBIED attacks in March and April approached all-time highs, further exacerbating sectarian tension and making political deals more difficult to close.

Complex and challenging? No Shit! Notice the emphasis on al-Qaida, the universal bogeyman, and Iran. But the report is at least correct in the need for more stability. Shells landing inside the Green Zone almost daily and roughly 100 civilians dying each day aren't exactly positive signs, but the report claims "some progress". I disagree.

2. Political Reconciliation:

Political Reconciliation: Moving key legislation depends on deal-making among major players in a society deeply divided along sectarian, ethnic, and other lines. Meaningful and lasting progress on national reconciliation may also require a sustained period of reduced violence in order to build trust. For this reason, most of the major political benchmarks identified in the legislation ‑- i.e., final passage of monumental pieces of
legislation through Iraq’s Council of Representatives by consensus ‑- are lagging indicators of whether or not the strategy is succeeding or is going to be successful.

Iraq's politics are far from stable, with coalitions changing almost daily (do I need to say this? Go to for more). What is clear is that al-Maliki's government is in peril, the Parliament has not been able to achieve much of anything, and the situation is still in flux.

3. Diplomatic Engagement:

Diplomatic Engagement: Iran and Syria have continued to foster instability in Iraq. As noted, Iran funds extremist groups to promote attacks against Coalition and Iraqi forces, and the Iraqi Government. We see little change in Iran’s policy of seeking U.S. defeat through direct financial and material support for attacks against U.S. military and civilians in Iraq. Iran is engaging in similar activities in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, foreign fighters (especially suicide bombers) continue to use Syrian territory as their main transit route to Iraq. The Syrian Government also allows major insurgent
organizers and financiers to operate in Damascus.

Blame Iran and Syria. While the report does remark on the summit at Sharm el-Shiekh (which didn't accomplish very much) as a positive, it mostly complains about Iran and Syria. This administration doesn't "do" diplomacy, we just tell other countries what we want them to do.

Economics and Essential Services:

Economics and Essential Services: The economic picture is uneven. Key economic indicators paint a modestly improved picture ‑‑ unemployment has eased slightly and inflation is currently abating. Government revenue is steady due to high oil prices, but the Iraqi Government has not yet made needed investments to increase oil and refining output. Private-sector activity is picking up in some areas, notably the more than $1 billion that have been invested in wireless telecoms, but investors remain wary due to poor security and the continuing need for a stronger legal framework. The Iraqi Government has begun to show resolve in initiating budget execution and capital investment to restore services, but citizens nationwide complain about government corruption and the lack of essential services, such as electricity, fuel supply, sewer, water, health, and sanitation.

This is a major disaster area. In Baghdad, electricity has dropped from about 4 hours a day last year to about 2 hours a day now. It's worse in the rest of the country. Safe drinking water is scarce. Prior to the invasion, Iraq was a functioning modern society in spite of the sanctions. In short, this is not progress.

Overall, the report tries very hard to put some positive spin on all four areas. It fails.

OK, later I'll be tackling the 18 "benchmarks" and the grades the report gives on each. I need to take a break to wash my brain.

1 comment:

Demeur said...

Nice analysis of the situation. Also notice that anyone with brains or the means has left the country.