From north to south, from east to west, violence and insecurity have gripped the entirety of Iraq. In January alone, at least 2,000 civilians, Iraqi security forces and US and British troops were killed in violence across the nation.
As President George Bush dispatches an additional 21,500 combat troops and
at least as many again in a supporting role to try to bring calm to
Baghdad, new figures suggest that violent death is becoming an everyday
occurrence across all of Iraq and in cities that rarely make the headlines.
In recent weeks places such as Kut and Mosul have reported civilian deaths
as a result of gunfire or explosions.
"There has long been this idea that if you control Baghdad you can
control the whole country, but that just does not make sense," said Nir
Rosen, a fellow at the Washington-based New America Foundation who has spent
more than two years in Iraq reporting on the violence. "Iraq has
fragmented. I don't think Baghdad has any relevance to what is happening in
Kirkuk, Mosul, Basra or Ramadi."
An Iraqi mourns the death of a relative as he takes him out of the morgue of Baghdad's al-Yarmuk hospital. A series of roadside bombings killed seven more US soldiers across Iraq, the military announced, as two suicide car bombs in Baghdad left 15 people dead.(AFP/Wisam Sami)
In December, Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, said: "I think
it's still the case that 80 per cent of the violence that we are hearing
about is taking place... in four provinces out of the 18."
Of Mr Bush's plan, Mr Rosen said: "It would not make a difference if we
sent 100,000 troops... I cannot imagine how they think they can succeed.
Americans are not the solution."
Available data suggests that Baghdad is the most perilous place in Iraq.
Just last weekend, at least 132 people were killed and more than 300 wounded
when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a lorry in the city's Sadriya
But it appears that few, if any, parts of the country are safe. Indeed, the
most recent figures, collated by The New York Times, may well underestimate
the levels of violence in other parts of the country because they rely on
media reports, the Iraqi government and the US military, which almost
certainly include only a portion of the numbers killed.
Professor Richard Garfield, an epidemiologist at Columbia University and
co-author of a 2004 study which estimated that at least 100,000 Iraqis had
died since the 2003 invasion, said: "One of the myths that Washington
has been pushing is that it is pretty peaceful in Iraq and that the problems
only exist in four governates. But if you only count [casualties] in four
governates that is what you will find." He added: "There are lots
of cities with high amounts of fighting that we don't even know about."
Almost four years after the US and British invasion of Iraq, reliable
statistics on the human cost of the war remain scarce. A report, published
last October by Dr Garfield's colleagues, estimated that 655,000 civilians
and security personnel had lost their lives.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that about two million
Iraqis about 8 per cent of the pre-war population have fled the country.
An additional 1.7 million people are displaced inside Iraq.
Violence continued to rock Baghdad yesterday, where an Iraqi general took
formal control of the security operation. Reports said at least 38 people
were killed in bomb and mortar attacks.
Meanwhile, the Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview yesterday
that the Bush administration does not have the vision to bring peace.
"We're not the only player, we're not the single player. But we are the
main player in this issue," he said. "Our role is going to be
through supporting the dialogue between the different parties inside Iraq
with support from the other parties, like the Americans and any other
country in the world."
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited