Although multiple headlines about bombings have created the illusion of a “ramp up” in Iraq violence, Iraqi civilian deaths have dropped this year for the third year in a row. According to the organization Iraq Body Count, the number of violence-related civilian deaths fell by 15 percent in 2010, to 3,976.
Most remarkably, this decrease came while Iraqis were handling their own national security to an extent not seen since the beginning of the war. In June 2009, American combat troops pulled out of Iraqi cities and transferred security duties to Iraqis there. Speculation about sectarian violence was nearly the default analytical position. By August of this year, when President Obama announced the official end of combat operations in Iraq, it had become clear that in the unlikely event Iraq does unravel, it would (and still could) happen courtesy of Iraqi politics.
The decrease in civilian deaths is a tribute to American fighting and training, and also to the great many Iraqis who have managed to hold their fragile country together with diminishing American oversight. It also means that the Zarqawi-authored terrorist tactic of jump-starting a civil war by targeting civilians of particular religious sects is dead. For all the bombings we read about over here, Iraqis are far more interested in security and progress than in retaliation.