Overall Violence in Iraq Has Not Diminished, Report Says

By Nancy A. Youssef

McClatchy Newspapers

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Washington- A Defense Department report released Wednesday acknowledges that violence in Iraq has not diminished, despite the arrival of thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi troops in Baghdad.

The report, which measured Iraq's progress from February to May, gives a less optimistic assessment of the impact of the so-called surge than commanders on the ground offered during that same period.

In April, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, had called the improvement in security "a good bit better," though he added that "I am not trying in any way, shape or form to indicate that this is a satisfactory situation whatsoever."

The report, however, pointed out that overall attacks and casualties had increased in Iraq 40 percent over the same period a year ago and that while sectarian murders declined, car bombings and other attacks increased. Violence in Baghdad dropped with the arrival of more American troops there, but rose in other areas, particularly Diyala province northeast of the capital and Nineveh, a mostly Sunni province to the north, the report said.

Since the report was written, U.S. officials have said that sectarian murders in Baghdad also have increased. According to statistics compiled by McClatchy Newspapers, there was a 70 percent increase in sectarian murders in Baghdad from April to May.

The report was the eighth produced under a congressional requirement that the Pentagon report quarterly on the situation in Iraq. It was notable from its predecessors in its candor. It was the first report issued since Robert Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense.

The report provided information from recent opinion surveys that show Iraqis are feeling more divided than ever. The report said that 36 percent of Iraqis said they believe they would be better off if Iraq were divided into three parts - Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions - a proposal that the Bush administration has declined to endorse. And while 77 percent of Iraqis said they felt "safe and secure" in their neighborhoods, only 32 percent felt the same way outside their communities.

On average, 100 civilians are killed every day, the report said. The Iraqi government has not met any of its interim deadlines to meet key political benchmarks the United States has outlined, the report said.

The surge was intended to quell violence in an effort to create an environment that would lead to political compromise, but it has so far failed to do that. The Iraqi government did not write a draft oil law by Feb. 26, as promised, and its constitutional review committee missed a May 15 deadline to submit its recommendations, the report said.

In addition, the Iraqi parliament likely will not set a date for provincial elections until next fall, the report said.

"To date, progress has been inhibited by the unwillingness of the various factions in the (Iraqi parliament) to compromise on key issues," the report said. "Reconciliation and the further development of democratic institutions will require more effort."

At the Pentagon, officials said they are focused on the future and not the report's findings. Leaders there and in Baghdad said it's too early to assess the surge.


To read the report, go to http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/9010-Final-20070608.pdf.