The Unraveling of Iraq, in Eight Charts

On Tuesday, Islamic militants seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s victory in Mosul marks a milestone in Iraq’s accelerating descent into chaos since the departure of U.S. military forces nearly three years ago. Whether the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq would have prevented the ...

AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images
AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images
AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Islamic militants seized control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's victory in Mosul marks a milestone in Iraq's accelerating descent into chaos since the departure of U.S. military forces nearly three years ago.

Whether the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq would have prevented the resurgence of violence is far from certain, but one thing isn't up for debate: Under the rule of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the country has seen a remarkable lack of progress on a variety of economic and security indicators. In many, it's actually taken several steps back. The case against Maliki is laid out in a report by Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman, who has been writing about Iraq since U.S. forces swept into the country in 2003, points out that by several key metrics, the Iraq of today looks worse than it did under Saddam Hussein.

Here, then, in eight charts, is the story of Iraq's unraveling.

On Tuesday, Islamic militants seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s victory in Mosul marks a milestone in Iraq’s accelerating descent into chaos since the departure of U.S. military forces nearly three years ago.

Whether the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq would have prevented the resurgence of violence is far from certain, but one thing isn’t up for debate: Under the rule of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the country has seen a remarkable lack of progress on a variety of economic and security indicators. In many, it’s actually taken several steps back. The case against Maliki is laid out in a report by Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman, who has been writing about Iraq since U.S. forces swept into the country in 2003, points out that by several key metrics, the Iraq of today looks worse than it did under Saddam Hussein.

Here, then, in eight charts, is the story of Iraq’s unraveling.

Iraq’s monthly body count, as seen in the last graph of the triptych, is approaching levels seen during the civil war that marred the American occupation of Iraq:

Meanwhile, Iraq continues to lead the global tables on terrorist attacks, both in terms of the total number of attacks and casualties. Moreover, ten plus years of civil strife has left Iraq with a particularly deadly terrorist problem: The average lethality of a terrorist attack in Iraq is 40 percent higher than the global average.  

And as violence has continued to roil Iraq, the country has struggled to improve its governance rankings. Incredibly, according to World Bank figures, rule of law was better in Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein than during Maliki’s years in power:

While Iraq had been making gains on human development indicators, those gains have mostly flatlined:

And Iraq continues to lag relative to its peers:

So it’s perhaps no surprise that corruption remains a huge problem in Iraq, leaving it on par with Yemen and Libya:

Consequently, Iraq lags behind its peers on ease of doing business rankings:

Add all these things together and what do you get? Despite their country’s massive oil wealth, Iraqis remain relatively poor:

You’re also left with another grim conclusion. Iraq, three years after U.S. troops withdrew from a country purportedly on the upswing, is in many ways worse off than ever before.

Twitter: @EliasGroll

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