Monday, April 11, 2011
The future of global oil supply, and the timing and height of peak oil, depend critically on whether and when Iraq can markedly increase its oil production. A precondition for increased oil production is adequate political stability in the country. So it's good to check-in every so often on how the statistics in the Brookings Iraq Index are tracking.
The above graph shows the number of foreign troops in Iraq since May 2003, shortly following the invasion of the country by the US and other "coalition of the willing" members. As you can see, the number of troops stabilized last summer at a much reduced number - just shy of 50,000 Americans (everyone else lost their willingness by the middle of 2009).
Notwithstanding the withdrawal, security indicators have mostly stabilized or continued to improve. For example, here is the estimate of violent fatalities of Iraqi civilians, which continues to mainly trend down:
Similarly, deaths of the Iraqi military and police are stable or declining:
There are now very few US troop casualties by comparison with earlier years:
Likewise, the number of troops wounded is a tiny fraction of the levels of the mid 2000s:
Therefore, the continued deployment is politically tolerable in the US (though it's likely that Iraqi domestic politics will enforce the current bilateral agreement that all troops will leave by the end of this year).
However, Iraq is still not a normal country - there are still 10-20 multiple fatality bombings a month, a very high rate of terrorism. However, the number is not increasing.
It appears likely that the Maliki government can keep the country stable enough for development of its oil resources to proceed at some pace constrained more by logistics than the security situation.