Poll 55 Of Iraqis Would Feel Safer

Poll: 55% of Iraqis Would feel Safer without US Troops

67% Support Muqtada al-Sadr

Associated Press reports a Coalition Provisional Authority poll of Iraqis taken in the middle of May that had only been used internally by the CPA and not released to the US public. The numbers do not reflect well on Bush administration policies in Iraq. The poll is available at the CPA site.

55% of Iraqis say they would feel safer if the US troops would just leave. And over half thought that all Americans behave the way the accused prison guards at Abu Ghuraib did. AP notes

‘ The prison scandal has also become fodder in the United States, as Democratic challenger John Kerry accuses Bush of failing to set a proper moral tone. ”I think the president is underestimating the full affect of what has happened in the world to our reputation because of that prison scandal,” Kerry said Tuesday. ‘

You betcha.

The poll shows that 59% of Iraqis feel that security is the most pressing need of the country. Some 16% say it is the economy, and a similar proportion say “infrastructure.” (I suspect “the economy” and the “infrastructure” are, if not the same thing exactly, at least very similar conncerns). The cities that saw or were close to the Sadrist uprising in April and May were most concerned about security (especially Hillah), whereas Basrans were unusually concerned about infrastructural problems, which they put on the same level as security. (There were riots in Basra last August over lack of fuel and poor services, whereas security has been above average there for Iraq, in part because the British military has taken a less aggressive approach there.)

Only half of Iraqis say they feel safe in their own neighborhoods (probably a lot of these come from Basra), and where they do feel safe, it is because of neighbors, local patrols and family rather than because of the police (only 18% attributed their safety to the police).

Iraqis have increased confidence in their own police and military (what military?). But 78% of them have no confidence in the Coalition Provisional Authority and 81% of them have no confidence in the US and coalition military. The approval rating for Mr. Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority is 11% favorable, down from 47% last November! Mr. Bremer arrived in Iraq last year with a pledge that “we” would “impose our will” on the Iraqis. I guess not so much, actually.

Some 81% of Iraqis had a much improved opinion of Muqtada al-Sadr from 3 months earlier, which tracks with an earlier Iraqi poll’s results. And, 67% of Iraqis support or strongly support Muqtada. 61% thought he had made Iraq more unified than before. Most don’t want him as president, but I’ll say more about that below.

Here is the breakdown of Iraqi politicians with regard to the percentage that say they support or strongly support them:

Ali Sistani: 70%

Muqtada al-Sadr 67%

Ibrahim Jaafari 58%

Ahmad al-Kubaisi 55%

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim 51%

Harith al-Dhari 45%

Muhsin Abdul Hamid 45%

Muhammad Bahr al-Ulum 44%

Adnan Pachachi 41%

Abdul Karim al-Muhammadawi 31%

Muwaffaq al-Rubaie 29%

Iyad Allawi 23%

Jalal Talabani 21%

Massoud Barzani 19%

Sistani gets support because of his vast moral authority, and Muqtada has picked up support because he has become a symbol of Iraqi aspirations for independence from the US. Ibrahim Jaafari, who will be one of two vice presidents, gets support because of his leading role in the al-Da`wa Party, a Shiite party founded in 1958 which is probably the oldest and biggest Iraqi party after the Baath (the Communists are a shadow of their former selves). Likewise Bahr al-Ulum and Muwaffaq al-Rubaie have al-Da`wa connections. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim leads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Al-Da`wa is likely in my view to be the biggest party in parliament if there are free and fair elections in January.

A surprise for me is how popular the Board of Islamic Clerics (sometimes called in the wire services the Association of Islamic Scholars) is. Its leaders Ahmad al-Kubaisi and Harith al-Dhari come in at 55% and 45% respectively. Another Sunni fundamentalist, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party– Muhsin Abdul Hamid — comes in at 45%. Since Sunni Arabs in Iraq can’t be much more than 16% of the population, this result means that some Kurds and Shiites are supporting these Sunni clerical leaders. All three protested the siege of Fallujah and al-Dhari and Abdul Hamid were involved in the negotiations, so some of their celebrity comes from that.

Iyad Allawi, whom the Interim Governing Council forced on Mr. Brahimi, isn’t actually very popular in this poll, and if things had been done democratically, Ibrahim Jaafari would be prime minister. He may yet be.

Asked for whom they would vote for president, these over a thousand Iraqis chose in this order among real candidates: Ibrahim Jaafari, Adnan Pachachi, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, and Saddam Hussein in that order. Saddam came in before Muqtada al-Sadr, but with only 3%.

The Americans according to their notes tried to take some comfort from Muqtada’s poor showing on this question, but they should not. Sistani also came in low here. It means people don’t think of Sistani and Muqtada as secular politicians of a sort who would be plausible presidents. It doesn’t mean they don’t support them in other ways for other things.

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