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Monday, November 26, 2007


"Progress" in Iraq - less than meets the eye, and more than meets the eye

It was just four months ago that news reports told us that 50,000 Iraqis were fleeing the country each month (two million all told). Not exactly a sign that Iraqis were happy with the status of their country. Then all of a sudden in the last few days we've been treated to articles and TV scenes of Iraqis returning to Iraq - 50,000 a month in October, an exact reversal of the situation just three months previous! Remarkable.

Also remarkable in its own way is an article from the New York Times which sheds light on that number. First, we learn that "the count covered all Iraqis crossing the border, not just returnees." We also learn that, after an "initial rush," the numbers have declined substantially, so that the amount of time it would take for two million people to return, which was already going to be 40 months (more than three years) if the 50,000/month rate held up, will be a lot longer.

But the most important thing we learn is why people are returning - "46 percent were leaving because they could not afford to stay; 25 percent said they fell victim to a stricter Syrian visa policy; and only 14 percent said they were returning because they had heard about improved security." Furthermore, the Iraqi government is paying people to return. And last but not least, people are still leaving at the same time that others are returning: "28,017 were internally displaced in October, according to the latest United Nations figures. In all, the United Nations estimates that 2.4 million Iraqis are still internally displaced." No figures on the number actually leaving the country, but with 28,017 (how on earth do they get such exact figures?) internally displaced in that one month, it's rather hard to believe that either some of those, or some others, didn't leave the country entirely.

Actually the real "progress" in Iraq - progress for the American ruling class - is getting closer, as this article reveals:

Iraq's government, seeking protection against foreign threats and internal coups, will offer the U.S. a long-term troop presence in Iraq in return for U.S. security guarantees as part of a strategic partnership, two Iraqi officials said Monday.

The Americans appeared generally favorable subject to negotiations on the details, which include preferential treatment for American investments, according to the Iraqi officials involved in the discussions.

Preferential treatment for U.S. investors could provide a huge windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its vast oil resources.

The Iraqi officials said that under the proposed formula, Iraq would get full responsibility for internal security and U.S. troops would relocate to bases outside the cities. Iraqi officials foresee a long-term presence of about 50,000 U.S. troops, down from the current figure of more than 160,000.
As I've been noting for several years now - there are still 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, nearly 60 years after the "end" to that war "conflict."

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