General David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, has stated that the troop surge cut the number of sectarian killings by one-third since January and President Bush has gone so far as to call the surge a success if one doesn't count suicide or car bombings.
"If the standard of success is no car bombings or suicide bombings, we have just handed those who commit suicide bombings a huge victory," Bush told TV interviewer Charlie Rose on Tuesday.
The report by the UN mission in Iraq provides an analysis of human rights concerns from January through March. It concludes that the Iraqi government is up against "immense security challenges in the face of growing violence and armed opposition to its authority and the rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis."
Noticeably lacking from the report are the civilian casualty statistics which, according to the previous report from the UN, recorded 34,452 Iraqi civilian casualties in 2006.
The report said the Iraqi government had "decided against providing the data, although no substantive explanation or justification was provided."
U.S. State Department officials have publicly questioned the factual accuracy of the UN report and defended the Iraqi government's decision not to release the figures.
The decision not to publicize the figures on civilian casualties -- considered by many to be a gauge of the situation in Iraq, and al-Anbar province in particular -- is an important omission since the statistics would be a means of measuring the success of the troop surge.
Unofficially, the Iraqi government expressed concern that the numbers would be "used to portray the situation as very grim," said Ivana Vuco, a UN human rights officer in Iraq, quoted by Human Rights Watch. High casualty figures would "further undermine their efforts to establish some kind of security and stability in the country," she said at a news conference in Baghdad.
The U.S. government disregarding car and suicide bomb attacks and the Iraqi government withholding civilian casualty statistics make it very difficult to determine the effectiveness of the surge or the situation on the ground in Iraq, agree most analysts.
Bush administration officials have pointed to a 50-percent decline in the number of bodies found on Iraqi streets as evidence that the new security plan and troop surge is working, but the number of people killed in explosive attacks has risen from 323 in March to 365 through Apr. 24.
The UN human rights report, despite the lack of Iraqi government data on civilian deaths, describes a precarious security situation and attributes the high level of violence in Baghdad to "large scale indiscriminate killings and targeted assassinations perpetrated by insurgency groups, militias and other armed groups." The violence killed large numbers of civilians, including women and children, in Shia and Sunni neighborhoods alike, the report said.
Another area of UN concern is the large number of detainees and the limited rights afforded to them.
The UN found that by the end of March, 37,641 people were being held throughout Iraq, including 17,898 in U.S. custody.
The report cited concern with the U.S. military's "indefinite internment of detainees" and people "held for prolonged periods effectively without charge or trial."
"Security detainees are denied access to defense council during first 60 days of internment," and "continued failure of the Iraqi government as a whole to seriously address issues relating to detainee abuse and conditions of detention" are of concern, reads the report.
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Albion Monitor April
26, 2007 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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