Archive for October, 2006

Why do Iraqis like pollsters?

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Among the heavy coverage of the Lancet mortality figures by bloggers (see Tim Lambert for some of the best), this take, by “UK Polling Report” is particularly interesting:

Firstly, the turnout is unbelievably high. The report suggests that over 98% of people contacted agreed to be interviewed. For anyone involved in market research in this country the figure just sounds stupid. Phone polls here tend to get a response rate of something like 1 in 6. However, the truth is that - incredibly - response rates this high are the norm in Iraq. Earlier this year Johnny Heald of ORB gave a paper at the ESOMAR conference about his company’s experience of polling in Iraq - they’ve done over 150 polls since the invasion, and get response rates in the region of 95%. In November 2003 they did a poll that got a response rate of 100%. That isn’t rounding up. They contacted 1067 people, and 1067 agreed to be interviewed.

Does anybody have an idea of why this would be the case? Are Iraqis just desperate to be heard by the outside world? Is this a hangover from the Baath era, with people telling officials whatever they want to hear? Perhaps they’re just less bored of polls than the rest of us? I’m baffled.

655,000 killed because of war in Iraq

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

It won’t be publicly available until Thursday, but The Lancet is about to print an updated version of the 2004 Iraq mortality estimate. At the time, they estimated that there had been around 100,000 excess deaths because of the war. Now, according to the Washington Post and New York Times, their current estimate is about 655,000 excess deaths, of which 600,000 were caused by violence.

190,000 IDPs?

Friday, October 6th, 2006

We wrote about displacement a few months ago, as thousands of Iraqis were forced out of their homes by sectarian violence after the bombing of the Samarra mosque.

Since then, things have been steadily getting worse. Now the IOM estimates that there are 190,000 internally displaced Iraqis. The Iraqi Ministry of Migration puts the figure higher: they say some 9,000 Iraqis are registering as refugees each week, and the total number is around 240,000

But what about the roads?

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Dividing Iraq up into (usually) three separate units is a favourite project of pundits, particularly in the USA. What I’ve not seen is any thorough consideration of what that would involve in terms of changes to the country’s infrastructure and communications systems. How would power and water supplies be disrupted by administrative changes, for example? How many disputes would be caused by having power stations in one region providing power to another? Would the existing road system prove totally inappropriate?

In case you were wondering: yes, I do think breaking up Iraq would be an extremely bad idea for all kinds of other reasons. I just think it would be interesting to see what would happen in practical terms, as well.

A well-ordered militia, or canny stockpiling?

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

A while back the New York Times and the BBC cheerfully reported that 25 Sunni tribes in Anbar had decided to support the Iraqi government in attacking insurgents.

Am I too cynical in thinking that the crucial sentence is this one:

In addition to the government’s blessing, Mr. Rishawi said, the tribes also wanted weapons and equipment to confront the Qaeda-backed insurgents.

Asking for weapons from the government isn’t a sign of loyalty - it’s about getting yourself the equipment to defend yourself against anybody - government, American, jihadi, whatever - who attacks you.

Every Iraqi grouping with an ounce of sense wants to keep itself heavily armed at the moment - and if the kit comes with a vague government permission to use it, so much the better.This isn’t any different from the militias that were incorporated into the various security forces, or the employment of tribes to guard oil pipelines.

Or am I being too cynical?