BBC WHYS — Is Iraq Getting Better ?

morning / afternoon / evening, Peter here with news of World Have Your Say, on air at the usual time – 1800 GMT 🙂IS IRAQ GETTING BETTER ?Now, we’re not talking about the so-called US ‘surge’. We’ve discussed that at length before, and I daresay we will again. No, today we want to know if Iraq is actually, finally becoming more peaceful. The number of road-side bomb attacks has dropped, more people are going to work, the number of month-to-month military casualities is down – so is Iraq getting better ? REGIONAL VARIATIONSSince the invasion back in early 2003 the south of the country had been considered especially dangerous — think Basra, think lawlessness, think suicide attacks and think allegations of Iranian involvement. But what’s it like today ? The latest figures make for positive reading: rocket and mortar attacks in Iraq are reported to have fallen to their lowest levels for nearly two years. The US military said such attacks in October fell to 369, half the level during October 2006. This is the third month running of reduced rocket fire. Mortar and rocket attacks in Baghdad too, showed a similar pattern, falling to 53 in October from more than 200 in June.

Other reasons for the reduction were the discovery of arms caches following tip-offs from Iraqis, the killing of more insurgents and successful campaigns which focus on the idea of reconciliation.


US commanders and Iraqi officials have been briefing regularly that violence levels have dropped. Some US military officials have said that al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group believed to be behind many of the biggest suicide bombings, has been driven out of Baghdad. One word of caution here however, other senior US officers warned recently that the downward trend in violence was not yet irreversible. But on top of all that there are shifting tribal/religious loyalities which can only be to the good — because people are not dieing at the same rate as last month, or the month before that.

What does all this mean for the ordinary people of Iraq, whether they’re in the north, in Baghdad, or in the south — how has this now changed their day-to-day lives ? As ever with Iraq there are echoes for this topic well beyond Iraqs borders. There’s a US Presidential election in under a year: does this play well for Mr Bush, or does it play well for whoever gets the Democrat ticket, what will the voters in the US think ? What does it mean for the countries who’ve got forces at the sharp end, on the ground, all over Iraq ? Does it mean a withdrawal is closer ? If you have friends or family serving in Iraq, does this bring forward their return home ?

Let us know what you think, as ever:


TEXT: + 44 77 86 20 60 80

PHONE: + 44 20 70 83 72 72

Later, Peter 🙂

35 Responses to “BBC WHYS — Is Iraq Getting Better ?”

  1. November 14, 2007 at 14:09

    is iraq getting better? its a good question but amazingly your discussion focussed on increase or decrease in number of attacks and not in terms of improvement in life standard, normacy of life and stability attained. i hope your title needs to cover these things as fall in number of attacks will not substitute for the suffering of the people of iraq for their bread and butter.

  2. November 14, 2007 at 14:57

    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 it was 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.

    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.

  3. 3 Dennis Young, Jr.
    November 14, 2007 at 16:13


    i hope that iraq will be a peaceful country…..

  4. 4 Olamide
    November 14, 2007 at 16:18

    The problem in Iraq is the unspecification of objective, and also we all do not know what is happening in Iraq. Is there really a war going on there?

  5. 5 John D. Anthony
    November 14, 2007 at 16:35

    All we know about Iraq is what we are told by officials we don’t trust and reporters who can only talk about what they are allowed to see. I suggest you ask Lubna.
    Personally, I don’t expect this thing to be over in my lifetime.

    John D. Anthony
    Salem, Oregon

  6. 6 VictorK
    November 14, 2007 at 17:07

    The improvement in the Iraqi situation is nothing to be celebrated (except, obviously, for the reduced loss of coalition and Iraqi lives).

    So long as improvements are directly attributable to the US military, so much the worse for both America and Iraq. The Iraqis appear to be as incapable as ever of ordering their own affairs with any competence. They are utterly dependent on the coalition. And even if the Americans are crazy enough to commit themselves to policing Iraq indefinitely (we have already heard allegedly sane people in the US military speculate about a 50 year commitment), such a commitment will one day come to an end: from that day all improvement in the country will vanish with the departure of the coalition forces. The leaders of the Western world need to cure themselves of the delusion that people outside of the West are just like people in the West. Just because it was possible to reconstruct Germany and Japan after war is no reason to think that it’s possible to reconstruct a country like Iraq which is entirely lacking in the cultural capital and ability to build and maintain institutions that made it possible for the Japanese and Germans to recover from a situation that was, materially, far more devastating than anything the Iraqis have had to face. The Islamic dimension also makes this an unusually intractable problem.

    There are only two viable options for pacifying Iraq permanently and without the coalition permanently entrenching itself in the country. The first is to instal a Saddam-style dictator with the will to do what needs to be done (e.g. ‘eliminating’ all private armies and those who head them, such as al-Sadr). The coalition is pathetically squeamish about taking such steps itself, a weakness that has contributed to the longevity of the insurgency. But a Saddam mark II would just make the world and the American electorate wonder why so many thousands have died and so many billions been squandered in order to return Iraq to where it was before 2003.

    The second option is to partition the country. Iraq is an artificial state and a pretend-nation. The very fact that there is a Sunni-Shia war raging there is conclusive evidence that there is no genuine ‘Iraqi nation’ that deserves to be preserved under the umbrella of a unified state. Southern Iraq should be cut loose immediately. It has no oil and is of no strategic significance to the West. It should be left to form its own impoverished, violence-ridden, Sharia-ist state, too poor to trouble anyone and too insignificant to be troubled in its turn – a kind of Somalia of the Middle East.

    The Kurds and non-Kurdish Shi-ites should be allowed to form their own states. Both will have the oil that will make them viable propositions. And each would have a fairly homogeneous population re ethnicity, culture and religion, homogeneity in a people being the prime essential for establishing a funtional civil order (we in the West are so hypnotised by the cult of diversity that we have lost sight of this simple truth). It is very likely that the Kurds would welcome a permanent American military base in their country, for fear of what Turkey might do to them otherwise. That in itself ought to satisfy the US’s strategic interest in the region.

    The solution to the Iraqi problem is simple: abolish Iraq.

  7. November 14, 2007 at 17:25

    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 that Moqtada Sadr called 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.

    The figures put as a justification of military success are still unconvincing. They are dealt with in terms of statistics. They seem like figure 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.

  8. 8 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:15

    Foreign forces and Iraqis must however not be rhapsodic with the drop in bombs in Iraq, insurgents may be rethinking relevant tactics!

  9. 9 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:16

    Hi, in my openion US attack over Iraq was a wrong action, and they repeated the same mistake they did in Witnam, and now they are in hell which has no way out.

  10. 10 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:19

    Bradley Zane, in California, USA:
    Humm, nothing like good news. Like the “light at the end of the tunnel” perhaps this period may parallel Vietnam just prior to the start of the Tet offensive.

  11. 11 Nick
    November 14, 2007 at 18:20

    One of your commentators compared this to Malaya. This nothing like Malaya where a clear victory and end was achieved because it was a completely different situation and internment worked because it was a more clear cut situation. Chinese communists v the rest.

  12. November 14, 2007 at 18:28

    Getting better for who? ask the 2.5 million Iraqis refugees Ask the millions with out water, sanitation, or even access to food. Has the country become divided, sectarian, and there for more closed and protective? yes. Have people learned when and where to go safely to get their needs? yes. Has the US military finally started getting better equipment for their troops? Yes. Have they learned the techniques to reduce the chance of an attack? Yes. That is the evolution of a war zone. The underlying reasons for the violence still lurk there, waiting to strike up all over again.

    To what extent would it have to get better that it would justify the action to begin with? All things are relative. The “look it’s getting better” mentality just seems to give ammunition to the people looking to justify the unjustifiable.

  13. 14 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:30


    It is good that you are covering Iraq and the issue of life there.

    I imagine that it is important for the Anglo-American “axis of regimes change” to make it seem that things are getting better. The world, but especially the Iraqi people, are not fooled by such propaganda.

    Are you serious about things getting better?

    Why don’t you talk about the deteriorating situation about the basic needs of the Iraqi people. How about the non-existent health services? How about the contaminated water? Little to no electricity in most of Iraq. Then, don’t forget about the effects of depleted uranium, thanks to unnecessary use by the Americans and British, which is haunting the Iraqis day-and-night.

    I am not seeing a mass return of Iraqis who have left their homes. That tells me that life is still dangerous and conditions are untenable. That is the real picture.

    The violence has apparently subsided only because the resistance has chosen to lay off. If Muqtada al-Sadr chooses to reignite the pyre they could do so with impunity. Likewise, with the Sunni clans. That one of your guests talks about Al Qaeda is laughable.

    I dare you to print or air my comments.

    Thanks all the same.

    Madison, WI

  14. 15 Tracy
    November 14, 2007 at 18:33

    This Message is to John D. Anthony Who posted earlier that all He seems to know about Iraq is information which he suspects is controlled.

    Actually @John, there are thousands of blogs, by soldiers posting their experiences( without restriction) online for people who are interested in reading and hearing their views to explore. There are actually blogs and posts from Iraqis themselves who record what they think and see out there. If you need to know what is going on, there is always you going out there to see things for yourself. :))

  15. 16 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:34

    As long as America is in Iraq, things will not get better,but will go from bad to worse.
    Najeeb, Swat, Pakistan.

  16. November 14, 2007 at 18:38

    Some chess games open as “blood baths”. Then as the easy targets get out of the way, a more stagnate and technical game emerges where each side dances around looking for the other side to make a mistake. In the mean time each side keeps threatening and forcing its opponent to use its resources all the while looking for a mistake to be made.

    This is the lull they are in in Iraq.

  17. 18 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:45

    MARK T.

  18. 19 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:45

    Robert Masinde from Bungoma Kenya:
    I think iraq had improved: there is peace and the dead rate had reduce due to security from the US army and there is freedom nowadays in the country compared to some years back.

  19. 20 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:46

    Kato, Kampala, Uganda
    It sounds like the situation is getting better. But the price has been very high. Was it worth it to the Iraqs?

  20. 21 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:46

    Zainab, in Iraq
    Thank God,YES these last 3 months are getting better and I wish that people would stop talking about sects and look forward to live happily as we were.

  21. 22 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:46

    Niyi Omoregha, from Nigeria
    It is good news that there s relative peace in Iraq, but it s hard to believe it will last.I strongly pray it remain in peace for good

  22. 23 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:47

    Jo, in Prague, Czech Republic:
    Do any guests think too much media attention gives oxygen to the fire of terrorism?

  23. 24 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:47

    Jude, in Lagos, Nigeria:
    If violence levels are any indicator, the surge appears to be working, but need more efforts on the politico-diplomatic front while hoping for the best.

  24. 25 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:47

    Ray in the West Indies
    How do we define better after so many lives have been lost in the war ,this year being the worse? Despite the decrease in present activities can we really say it is better?

  25. November 14, 2007 at 18:48

    John D. Anthony,

    As a soldier you can not blog without restriction. Here is a couple of storys from earlier this year. There was one that came out later that there was a vetting process for blogs.


    The Iraqis that do have blogs are not obviously living in places where they are running for their lives. They obviously have access to electricity and the internet. They also obviously speak English and have many other attributes that would set them apart form “normal” Iraqis citizens.

  26. 27 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:48

    Iraq is the worst security in the world.
    Abdulkadir hassan. Somalia.

  27. 28 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:49


    I believe that Iraq is in no win situation for following reasons.

    a. If external forces leave, insurgents and militant Sunnis and Shias will kill more innocent Iraqis. This will increase sufferings and hate which will increase more revenge attacks through revenge attacks.

    b. If external forces stay than while hunting killers they will hurt innocent Iraqis who will again get tempted to become violent.

    While hate gets boosted violence will continue and all Iraqis will suffer. Why don’t they realise that only unity and security will make Iraq as successful as Dubai?

    I hope this makes sense.


    Yogesh Raja from Aylesbury U.K.

  28. 29 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:51

    Art O Laoghaire, in Bray, Co Wicklow, Ireland

    I don’t know enough about Iraq to comment, but I do know that the situation there is quite different and far more complex than the North of Ireland. One cannot draw simple comparisons. And the problem their did not just “peter out”. The republican movement realised a political solution was necessary, and the loyalist politicians realised they had to talk to them.
    Without any talking, any peace negotiations, I believe the current lull is only that: a lull.

  29. 30 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:56

    I think the security is not getting beter, but as a mater of fact the militants reequiping and recruting like it happend in Afghanistan.
    Hamid from Kabul.

  30. 31 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:57

    Every conflict ends one way or the other.I believe the people are realising that their enemy is Bush and the coalition forces. They hav realised that they are killing one another for nothing.The problm is America. When the Americans go,the war wil end.

  31. 32 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:58

    The problem in Iraq is caused by the Iraqis themselves.They’re their own problem and so their own solution.
    Donald Manyam,Bauchi State,Nigeria

  32. 33 worldhaveyoursay
    November 14, 2007 at 18:59


  33. 34 carol
    November 15, 2007 at 15:25

    Just listened to discussion about Iraq.

    I question the validity of the content as so many of the discussants have a motivation to spin report.
    1. National Review speaking for american press. It is a conservative media organization with a definite Republican bias.
    2. Active duty American soldier blogger. Would he be allowed to contribute if he was going to say anything critical?
    3. Iraq “government” official. Let’s guess what impression he wants to convey.

    Describing something as improved doesn’t convey much information unless you describe baseline. Compared to what?

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