The Iraqi Public on the US Presence and the Future of Iraq

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In January 2006 conducted a poll of Iraqis. Since then there have been numerous developments that raise questions about how the views of the Iraqi people may have shifted. The center of violence in Iraq has shifted geographically into Baghdad, and socially into interethnic violence between Shias and Sunnis. Has this changed attitudes about the presence of US forces—especially among the Sunnis who may now feel more vulnerable? Some Iraqi members of parliament have called for the US to give a timetable for the withdrawal of its forces. In the January poll, a majority of Iraqis wanted the US to set a timetable, but there was no majority sentiment for a quick withdrawal. What do the Iraqi people feel now, and does it vary by ethnic group? Attacks on US troops have continued unabated. In January, nearly half of Iraqis approved of attacks on US-led forces--but the sense that American troops are now focused on reducing violence in Baghdad may have altered the equation. Meanwhile, the argument among Iraq’s political parties about how decentralized the country’s future federal structure will be continues to simmer. Among Shia leaders there are deep divisions over whether or not to set up a largely autonomous region in the south. While Kurds in the north have considerable autonomy now, the size and independence of their future territory remains a subject for dispute. Sunni leaders tend to be hostile to federalism in general. In America, there has also been speculation in policy circles about whether a full partition of Iraq would be the best long-run solution. But it is unclear to what degree the centrifugal forces that are undoubtedly in play actually represent what ordinary Iraqis think. The growth of militias, in many cases allied to political parties, has been a deeply troubling phenomenon. It is possible that this very growth in militia membership is a sign that Iraqis are turning to them increasingly to meet their need for security. However, since militia members certainly do not constitute a majority of all Iraqis, it is also possible that the apparent trend does not coincide with most people’s desires. In the US, there is a stormy political argument over whether the presence in Iraq of an al Qaeda group, active in atrocities against US troops, foreign civilians, and Iraqi civilians alike, means that battle lines are now clearly drawn in Iraq between those who stand with the US against al Qaeda and those who do the opposite. But little is known of how the mass of Iraqis view al Qaeda, or whether opponents of the US presence are also al Qaeda supporters. In the context of these dynamics, has undertaken a second poll of the Iraqi people to determine their attitudes about these various developments occurring around them, and also to differentiate the views of the ethnic subgroups—Arab Sunnis, Shia and Kurds. The poll was fielded by KA Research Limited/D3 Systems, Inc. Polling was conducted September 1-4 with a nationwide sample of 1,150, which included an oversample of Arab Sunnis. Respondents from all of Iraq’s 18 governorates were interviewed for the sample.