The State of Iraq: An Update
The New York Times
By Nina Kamp, Michael O’Hanlon, and May Unikewicz

AFTER his surprise trip to Baghdad this week, President Bush struck a hopeful tone. “I do think we’ll be able to measure progress,” he declared at a news conference on Wednesday. “You can measure progress in capacity of Iraqi units … in megawatts of electricity delivered … in oil sold on the market …. There’s ways to determine whether or not this government’s plans are succeeding.”

We agree. Unfortunately, according to our latest tally of metrics (compiled from a variety of government and news media sources), Iraq has a long way to go. To be successful, the new Iraqi government will have to do things that its predecessors and the United States have generally failed to accomplish.

Violence on the whole is as bad as ever. Sectarian strife is worse than ever. The economy has slowly come back to prewar levels for the most part, but is now treading water. As a result, optimism has waned. According to an International Republican Institute poll conducted in late March, more than 75 percent of Iraqis consider the security environment to be poor and the economy poor or mediocre.

Those looking for signs of promise in Iraq can still find footholds beyond the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The security forces, particularly the Iraqi Army, continue to improve in technical proficiency – even if their interethnic cohesiveness remains suspect. Reductions in consumer subsidies have strengthened the financial standing of the government, and high oil prices compensate for Iraq’s anemic production levels. But overall, it is increasingly hard to describe Iraq as a glass half-full.

Nina Kamp and Michael O’Hanlon are, respectively, a senior research assistant and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Amy Unikewicz is a graphic designer in South Norwalk, Conn.

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