Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Guardian Newspaper United Kingdom Violence in Iraq has dropped considerably in recent months, as Iraqi military cooperation and a willingness among Iraqis to settle differences without violence have led to a broad decrease in civilian deaths, according to a report issued by the US military today. In a quarterly report to the US Congress, the department of defence said civilian deaths are down more than 80% from the height of sectarian violence in November 2006. Total "security incidents" have declined to the lowest level in four years, the report states. The report acknowledges that "high-profile" suicide attacks continue, but said the decreasing violence suggests the bloodshed no longer sparks rounds of ethnic recrimination. Among the causes of the drop in violence, the Pentagon credited Iraqis' rejection of terror groups' ideologies and indiscriminate violence, improving economic conditions, cooperation with the US military goals of the tribal groups called Sons of Iraq, and US and Iraqi military successes against terror group al-Qaida in Iraq. "Overall, the communal struggle for power and resources is becoming less violent," the report states. "Many Iraqis are now settling their differences through debate and the political process rather than open conflict." The report warns that in order to preserve the relative calm, the government of Iraq must co-opt the Sons of Iraq and train them in civilian jobs or incorporate them into the Iraqi military. It states that Iran "has emerged as a major security challenge", citing Iranian training and supplying of Iraqi militant groups. The improved conditions could prove a benefit to Republican president nominee John McCain, who was an early supporter of the troop surge, which he credits with improving conditions. Obama has said he is encouraged by the reduction in violence, but stresses the importance of beginning a withdrawal of US troops.