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The bonds hit their highest value ever — nearly $84 — in January 2010, the same month that civilian casualties hit an all-time low, according to Pentagon officials.
Michael O’Hanlon, who tracks indicators of progress for the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index, said that “Iraq has continued its remarkable trajectory of improvement.’’
“It is still fairly violent by Mideast standards, but many countries in places like South America have higher overall levels of violence now from crime,’’ he said.
Traditional Wall Street investors have taken note. Iraq is now considered a safer bet than Argentina, Venezuela, Pakistan, and Dubai — and is nearly on par with the State of California, according to Bloomberg statistics on credit default swaps, which are considered a raw indicator of default risk.
“Compared to California, I’d rather bet on Iraq,’’ Daher said. “Iraq is a country where there are still bombs going off and people getting murdered, but they are less indebted than the United States. California is likely to have more demands on its resources, and there is no miracle where California is going to have more revenue coming out of the sky. Iraq has prospects for tremendously higher revenues, if they can manage to get their act halfway together, which they seem to be doing.’’
Smith and Daher are keeping their Iraqi bonds, but they aren’t buying any new ones. Now that other investors have returned to Iraq, prices are high, so Smith is looking elsewhere. Perhaps that is one of the strongest signals yet that normal life is returning to Iraq: Bob Smith is getting out.