One of the easiest ways to analyse the news is what information theorists somewhat portentously know as “traffic analysis” – ie. seeing how much of it there is, and where it’s coming from.

On that principle one can see on the “Iraq Today” website what the surge is really doing in Iraq – shifting the violence to the provinces, from whence troops were transferred in order to put a lid on Baghdad.

While the huge roll-call of security incidents – ie. killings – from the Iraqi capital has quieted somewhat, the Mosul-Kirkuk register is booming.

The same process can be seen within Iraq, where the handover process is continuing, even when regions are far from secured. Thus Karbala province is being heralded as the eighth of eighteen provinces to be handed over, and a measure of success, despite the fact that there continue to be pitched factional and sectarian battles there.

While the US continues to talk of the country “turning the corner” – something people going in circles always say they’re doing – their actions speak louder. The State department has now made it mandatory for diplomatic officials to accept postings there.

Nevertheless, there clearly has been some reduction in the violence. Whether that will last remains to be seen. Much of it has been achieved by putting Baghdad in a state of virtual lockdown, and a city can’t run like that forever.

Nor has the refugee flow ceased – as noted in the first new postings by the much-missed Riverbend, now blogging from Damascus, where her family have fled to. As she notes Syria, the last country to allow refugees to cross without a visa, may now impose border controls, as the numbers swell. If Turkey opens a front in Kurdistan, those numbers may increase.

Mind you it is only a matter of time before the pro-war groups open a new front of their own – defending the war as a bloody but just struggle. With the new free Iraq making it a crime to photograph bomb sites or political crime scenes, an awareness of the sheer level of violence in the place has dropped off the radar.

But there seems no reason to doubt the figures of over a million Iraqis dead from war-related causes, now established by multiple research and polling groups. And no real idea about what will happen when the traffic starts to move and the Americans go – if, they ever do completely.

Peter Fray

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