By studying the night-light signature of Baghdad, provided by weather satellite imagery, a team of UCLA geographers has concluded that the ethno-sectarian bloodshed in the Iraqi capital largely ended in early 2007 because Sunni neighborhoods emptied, not because of the much-vaunted increase in American troops.
Put simply, these guys looked at how the city was lit at night and deduced that “by the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left”, says professor John Agnew, lead author of the study:
Baghdad’s decreases were centered in the southwestern Sunni strongholds of East and West Rashid, where the light signature dropped 57 percent and 80 percent, respectively, during the same period.
By contrast, the night-light signature in the notoriously impoverished, Shiite-dominated Sadr City remained constant, as it did in the American-dominated Green Zone. Light actually increased in Shiite-dominated New Baghdad, the researchers found.
Agnew concludes: “The surge really seems to have been a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.”
The study is here.