7,201 Killed in Iraq During 2018, Lowest Since US Invasion

At least 7,201 were killed, and 3,675 were wounded in Iraq’s various conflicts during 2018. These figures are estimates, but they are the lowest casualty figures since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The drop in the numbers from 2017 alone is dramatic and demonstrates that the war against the Islamic State is, for the most part, over. In 2017, 36,898 people were killed, and 8,753 were wounded. The number of people found in mass graves or underneath rubble is 4,015; most if not all of these people were killed prior to 2018.

The very long breakdown is as follows: At least 1,905 civilians were killed and 2,365 more were wounded. Iraqi forces lost 937 personnel, while 1,247 more were wounded.  One British and eleven U.S. servicemembers were reported killed during the year. All the deaths were reported as non-combat events. Overall, the number of casualties being reported fell significantly in the last third of the year.

The number of victims found in mass graves or underneath rubble last year stands at 4,015 bodies. They may be civilians, security personnel, or even members of ISIS. Some of the mass graves have yet to be excavated as there are little funds available for proper disinterment, identification, and reburial. Also, with Mosul still largely a mass of rubble, the discovery of bodies there is likely to go on for years.

Operations against Islamic State militants are ongoing, despite the declaration of victory over them. At least 3,643 of them were killed and 63 were wounded during year. Most media outlets do not count militant casualties. It is likely that the Iraqi government has exaggerated these figures in press releases.

Also, the Iraqi government executed at least 33 people during the year. Most, if not all of them were convicted on terrorism charges.

However, the fading war against ISIS is not the only conflict taking place in Iraqi territory.

Residents of southern provinces, particularly Basra, have rioted several times in the last few months. During Summer, the water quality issue was so severe that tens of thousands were sickened, and rioters burned various government buildings down in order to gain attention. The demonstrators also took the opportunity to complain about Iranian influence in the province and throughout Iraq as well. Besides clean water and better services, the demonstrators really want jobs. Considering that Basra provides a large proportion of oil revenue for the state, the amount of poverty in Basra province is surprising.

Hundreds were also sickened in Mosul in April. Authorities blamed decomposing bodies in the rivers for the illnesses.

In northern Iraq, at least 655 members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) were killed in Turkish operations. The Turks lost 16 members. Several more were wounded on both sides. Turkey and the P.K.K. have been waging war for over 30 years. The P.K.K. are seeking an autonomous region of their own in historically Kurdish regions of Turkey. The guerrillas have been using locations in northern Iraq as hideouts. Turkey has unilaterally decided that it can launch attacks on the P.K.K. without permission from Baghdad, and has even sent ground troops in. Unsurprisingly, the conflict flared right before Turkish elections in June. Iraq does not have the resources to repel these incursions.

Likewise, Iran has difficulties with its own Kurdish population. Some of the Kurds seeking independence have moved into Iraq to avoid persecution in Iran. The Iranian government attacked some of these dissidents in October, which included airstrikes on the city of Koya that left 16 dead and 47 wounded. Tehran is often blamed for the deaths of dissidents in Iraqi Kurdistan as well, and they may indeed be government-ordered assassinations.

Not counted in these figures are deaths that occurred due to Iraqi incursions into Syrian territory as part of the war on the Islamic State militants. These operations were conducted with approval from Damascus. In recent days, the Syrian government has apparently given Baghdad carte blanche to continue these operations without needing to consult the Syrians first. The use of Iraqi forces in Syria suggests that the security situation in Iraq has improved significantly, at least enough that these units were not needed elsewhere.

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Author: Margaret Griffis

Margaret Griffis is a journalist from Miami Beach, Florida and has been covering Iraqi casualties for Antiwar.com since 2006.