Friday, September 10, 2004

Progress in Iraq?

The Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. has just released a report entitled Progress or Peril? Measuring Iraq's Reconstruction. The report is based on a variety of indicators including public opinion polling and interviews in Iraq. The bottom line is that the situation remains grim.

There are five inter-related areas examined in the report: security, governance and participation, economic opportunity, services, and social well-being. Neither events in the period covered by the report (June 2003 to July 2004) nor public perceptions have been moving in a positive direction.

The Executive Summary begins with these words:

Two months after the United States transferred sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government, on June 28, 2004, Iraq remains embroiled in an insurgency, with security problems overshadowing other efforts to rebuild Iraq's fragile society in the areas of governance and participation, economic opportunity, services, and social well-being. U.S. policymakers attempt to strike a balance between promising a U.S. exit strategy and promising to stay the course. Reports of gruesome violence compete with triumphalist descriptions of success in various areas.

Later, the report summarizes the security situation and Iraqi perceptions of it:

Security continues to be the predominant issue, hampering reconstruction efforts on all other fronts. Crime is rampant, and, along with fears of bombings, militias' roadblocks, banditry on the highways, and regular kidnappings, continues to impact Iraqis' ability to go about their daily lives with any semblance of normalcy. Iraqis are well disposed toward their own security forces and clearly want them to play the leading role in bringing stability to the country, but those forces are still not up to the task. Iraqis have little confidence in U.S. and other international forces.

The report is well worth reading for the objective reporting it provides on the current situation in Iraq.