Is Iraq getting better?
morning / afternoon / evening, Peter here with news of World Have Your Say, on air at the usual time - 1800 GMT
IS IRAQ GETTING BETTER ?
Now, we're not talking about the so-called US 'surge'. We've discussed that at length before, and I daresay we will again. No, today we want to know if Iraq is actually, finally becoming more peaceful. The number of road-side bomb attacks has dropped, more people are going to work, the number of month-to-month military casualities is down - so is Iraq getting better ?
Since the invasion back in early 2003 the south of the country had been considered especially dangerous -- think Basra, think lawlessness, think suicide attacks and think allegations of Iranian involvement. But what's it like today ?
The latest figures make for positive reading: rocket and mortar attacks in Iraq are reported to have fallen to their lowest levels for nearly two years. The US military said such attacks in October fell to 369, half the level during October 2006. This is the third month running of reduced rocket fire. Mortar and rocket attacks in Baghdad too, showed a similar pattern, falling to 53 in October from more than 200 in June.
Other reasons for the reduction were the discovery of arms caches following tip-offs from Iraqis, the killing of more insurgents and successful campaigns which focus on the idea of reconciliation.
US commanders and Iraqi officials have been briefing regularly that violence levels have dropped. Some US military officials have said that al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group believed to be behind many of the biggest suicide bombings, has been driven out of Baghdad. One word of caution here however, other senior US officers warned recently that the downward trend in violence was not yet irreversible. But on top of all that there are shifting tribal/religious loyalities which can only be to the good -- because people are not dieing at the same rate as last month, or the month before that.
What does all this mean for the ordinary people of Iraq, whether they're in the north, in Baghdad, or in the south -- how has this now changed their day-to-day lives ? As ever with Iraq there are echoes for this topic well beyond Iraqs borders. There's a US Presidential election in under a year: does this play well for Mr Bush, or does it play well for whoever gets the Democrat ticket, what will the voters in the US think ? What does it mean for the countries who've got forces at the sharp end, on the ground, all over Iraq ? Does it mean a withdrawal is closer ? If you have friends or family serving in Iraq, does this bring forward their return home ?
Let us know what you think, as ever.