Thursday, January 7, 2010
Obviously, security is a critical issue in assessing the likelihood that the al-Shahrastani plan can really be executed in any reasonable period of time. I found some interesting statistics in the quarterly reports that the US Department of Defense is obligated to file with congress. The most recent one is for September 2009 (pdf). It looks like there ought to be a December report but it's not out yet.
Some of the most interesting things in the September report are some maps illustrating polling data of the Iraqi people's perception of security.
First one big caveat. People's perception of crime in general can be extremely inaccurate. For example, in the US people tend to think crime is bad and getting worse, even when it's actually getting better. My suspicion is that people's perception of crime is often formed by the media, which tends to emphasize crime stories, and that the availability_heuristic means that people remember more recent crime stories better than old ones and therefore think crime must be getting more common. That said, the regional patterns in these maps are strong, and probably mean something.
Not too inspiring that barely half the people would consider the country stable! (Though I'm not sure how many Americans or Germans would say in a poll that their country was unstable - there tends to be a certain fraction of people who show up with very strange opinions in any poll).
I have the most confidence in the "Neighborhoods are Secure" question. People have direct day-to-day knowledge of whether their own neighborhood is secure and so their opinion on that question is probably worth a lot. By contrast, opinions on questions like whether the whole country is secure, or whether traveling somewhere else in the country is safe, may be overly influenced by media images of spectacular attacks, which, while they can indeed be very spectacular, are comparatively rare and not necessarily serious threats to the security of the country.
From the perspective of oil development, it would seem to be most relevant to consider the security where the oilfields are. For that purpose, I created an overlay of the "Neighborhoods are Secure" map with the oilfield map from Tuesday's post. Here is the result (the two maps don't line up perfectly):
You can click on the image to get a larger version in a new window.
The thing that becomes clear after studying the map for a while is that almost all the production in the al-Shahristani plan comes from Basra and secondarily Maysan (formerly Amara) province in the south. Both of these have very high perceived neighborhood security.