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This article, written by Michael Knights, appeared on Foreign Policy on July 05,2012
Something is stirring in Iraq. On July 3, car bombs ripped through mainly Shiite neighborhoods across the country, killing 36 people. It was the latest tragedy in a bloody month -- a prolonged political crisis has weakened the government in Baghdad, giving insurgent groups an opening to expand their operations. The consequent surge in violence has led some to fear that the country could once again be descending into civil war.
But just as Iraqi politics heats up, the United States is rapidly losing its ability to decipher events in the country. "Half of our situational awareness is gone," an unnamed U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal in June. "More than half," a serving U.S. military officer told me when I asked about the accuracy of that statement.
To Iraq experts, these statements ring true: At the height of the "surge," the United States collected fine-grain data from the 166,000 U.S. troops and 700 CIA personnel in Iraq, as well as a network of 31 Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Now, U.S. embassy staff enjoy very limited freedom of movement -- hemmed in by a suspicious government in Baghdad and a still-dangerous security situation. According to the Journal, the CIA station in Iraq may be reduced to 40 percent of its peak levels because the Iraqi government is extremely sensitive about its intelligence work with the Iraqi security forces.
READ MORE AT Foreign Policy
*Photo Credit: BBC World Service
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