“CONGRATULATIONS TO IRAQ, CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WHOLE WORLD ON THIS VICTORY.”
Ali, Mohammed, & Omar Fadhil, of the Iraqi blog Iraq The Model.
It is difficult not to be caught up in the moment. It rivals the tearing down of Saddam’s statue or the arrest of Saddam himself. This is not the end of the violence in Iraq. But, step by incremental step, the Iraqi people are taking control of their own country.
The violence peaked a year ago. Two separate, but allied, groups, tried to disrupt the elections. The two principal enemies of democracy are the Iraqi baathists (Saddamites) and the mostly foreign al-Qaeda fighters, led by the now late, and largely unlamented, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Their failure to prevent the referendum on the constitution and the subsequent election was devastating to their long-term prospects. Their ability to attack targets diminished, and by March of this year we saw the lowest level of violence in post-Saddam Iraq. This was partly because of internal bickering between al-Qaeda and the baathists. Iraqi baathists wanted to take control of the so-called insurgency. This was difficult for them, because the number of Iraqis who support either al-Qaeda or the baathists is extremely small.
In the spring, bin Laden and Zarqawi mounted a major PR offensive to retake control of the battle in Iraq, which seems to have been largely successful. The past two months have seen a small uptick in the ability of the terrorists to hit Iraqi and Coalition targets. Zarqawi’s death will undoubtedly trigger a new power struggle. This will be very violent, but for a time at least Iraq’s enemies may be directing their fire at each other, not at government forces or Iraq’s Coalition allies. Violence against and Iraq and its allies will not, however, dry up. One way in which rival factions will seek to prove themselves is by hitting Coalition, especially American, military targets.
On the ground, the life of ordinary Iraqis continues to improve. The levels of violence are well down on last year, and lower than in many countries around the world. Some commentators are even claiming that violence levels in Iraq as a whole are lower than in some urban parts of the US.
By 2005 Iraqi GDP stood almost 50% higher than in 2002, and growth projections for 2006 are stunning. Better measures of Iraq’s wealth can be found in smaller things.
The estimated number of telephone subscribers in 2002 was 833,000. By March 2006 it had reached 6,836,854. In just two years from 2003, the number of internet subscribers rose from 4.500 to over 147,000. In the period to last October, the number of commercial TV stations rose from 0 to 44; radio stations from 0 to 72; independent magazines and newspapers from 0 to over 100.
Opinion polls show some contradictory results. Iraqis want Coalition troops to leave (and some doubt that they will) when security is restored. But those who support the presence of Coalition troops vary from 65-75%. While some Iraqis support attacks on Coalition troops, 77% of Iraqis think that the removal of Saddam was worth it. President Bush can only wish that American support was this high.
Quentin Langley is editor of www.quentinlangley.net an academic at the University of Cardiff and is a columnist with Campaigns & Elections. This article was first published in the Common Sense series for Lake Champlain Weekly.