Iraq has faced a perilous journey
since the 2003 US invasion to overthrow former President Saddam Hussein, which
gave way to successive Shiite-led governments and militias seeking revenge and
Shiite-dominance, terrorist groups seeking blood and chaos, sectarian
conflicts, terrorist bombings, kidnappings and detentions, tortures, rapes and
diseases. With the continuous instability in Iraq and the wider region, it is
impossible to say where the country will be in the future, but we have the
ability to analyze the past. Here is a look at the scourge that has plagued
Iraq in recent history.
According to Iraq Body Count, there were at least 204,575 documented civilian deaths due to violence from 2003 until the end of September 2018. The organization notes that information from WikiLeaks may add another 10,000 deaths, while it also admitted that an accurate account is difficult to ascertain due to the circumstances in the country.
After the US declared an end to the Iraq War in December 2011, sectarian conflict and violence began to increase, along with various terrorist groups, most notably ISIS. The number of deaths in Iraq nearly doubled from 4,622 in 2012 to 9,852 in 2013. In 2014, the year ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced his “caliphate”, the number of deaths soared to 20,218, the most Iraqis killed in one year since 2007 at the height of the US-led war, when there were 26,078 deaths.
With ISIS and other terrorist groups, along with the Iranian-backed militias, seeking death and carnage in Iraq, 2013 to 2017 were some of the deadliest years that Iraq has seen, with a major decline then seen so far in 2018 following the announced “defeat” of ISIS. In total, there have been 79,927 civilian deaths in Iraq from 2013 to September 2018, according to Iraq Body Count. UN statistics are quite lower, with 38,588 deaths recorded in the same time period, but they are very much restricted in their ability to assess.
While 2018 has so far seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of recorded deaths, standing at 2,699 as of the end of September, it is unforeseen what the future will hold, as now Iranian Militias in Iraq and Syria (IMIS) are reportedly recruiting former ISIS members to join them in spreading chaos in the region. There are also various reports showing links between Iran and both ISIS and al-Qaeda leaders.
Besides the deaths caused by terrorism, militias and the government, Iraq has also been facing widespread kidnappings, rapes, and detentions and torture. The Iraqi government has detained thousands of accused terrorist members, who have been tortured and often killed while the state and judiciary look the other way, according to Human Rights Watch. The IMIS has also been following a path of destruction, largely with the backing and support of the government in Baghdad.
The conflicts and instability in the country have also caused negative environmental effects, with water-scarcity and pollution a huge source of problems in Iraq, causing disease to run rampant. Just in Basra, the number of people who have been poisoned by contaminated drinking water has reached 111,000, according to UN Envoy to Iraq Mehdi Tamimi. In August alone, 17,000 people were reported to have been admitted to hospitals over illness from the polluted water.
A lot is happening in Iraq these days, so it is unclear where Iraq will head from here. There have been the recent elections, with a new pro-Iran Sunni, Mohamed al-Halbusi, leading the parliament as its speaker, Kurdish PUK candidate Barham Salih became Iraq’s new president, and Shiite Adil Abdul Mahdi is charged with creating a new government as the incoming prime minister, replacing outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Abdul Mahdi’s cabinet is expected to be announced Wednesday, with the exception of sensitive security posts, such as the ministries of defense, oil and foreign affairs. The new government will have many issues to deal with, from infrastructure to the water crisis to the remnants of ISIS and other terrorist groups to the semi-official IMIS to Iran’s attempts to exert its control over Iraq.