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US electorate's oversight: Iraqi opinions as to their condition and their perceptions of US/Coalition occupation - part 2


Part 1

In June 2004, al Jazeera used ICRSS polling to point out when Iraqis were asked to "rank 17 prominent religious and political leaders. Iyad Allawi, Prime Minister of the interim government [who took] over administrative power from the Coalition Provisional Authority… finished in sixteenth place [while seventeenth place] Ghazi al-Yawer [who was] named president of the interim government. Al Jazeera also noted that earlier ICRSS surveys indicated that Alawi and al Yawer were already slipping in Iraqis' estimation at the time of their elevation.

Iraqis have a poor opinion of Alawi. Sadoun al-Dulame, executive director of the ICRSS, pointed to one reason: "Every newspaper that has reported about his appointment has mentioned his CIA connection." Although Alawi has sniped at the U.S.-led occupation in recent months, it's his ties to Langley that seem to have registered with Iraqis. (His organization, the Iraqi National Accord, is funded by the CIA.) "He's a CIA man, like [Ahmed] Chalabi," said Raed Abu Hassan, a Baghdad University political science post-grad. "In this country, CIA connections are political poison." It doesn't help that the Shiite Alawi is also a former Baathist, and a returning exile.

Not unsurprisingly, al Jazeera drew attention to ICRSS data noting that leading candidates were Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Ibrahim al-Jaafari (Shiite Da'wah party), and Adnan Pachachi (Sunni elder statesman).

By June 2004, ICRSS surveys such as The Results Of the Public Opinion Poll in Iraq were showing that rising violence (and mass violence of car bombings) that while some two-thirds of Iraqis still opposed the presence of the US-led military and increasing number feared that a Coalition departure would create greater violence, reversing polling as late as April 2004. A majority replied that Iraq was moving away from peace and stability and towards rising violence, noting that conditions had worsened since April.

Although the collapse of security is the population's top concern, most of those surveyed felt that the problem would be best handled by Iraqi forces and that the presence of foreign armies attracted more violence. Almost 70% said that if foreign armies remained in Iraq after an elected government took office in January attacks against Iraqi police and government officials would increase.

Iraqis remain conflicted over the presence of US troops, a large majority feeling that the US could not improve the situation, that Iraqi troops were preferable by far but were not yet skilled to the task.

Asked if they would support a party which wanted foreign forces to stay until Iraq's army and police were adequately trained and equipped to face threats of violence, only 16% said yes.

ICRSS's al-Dulaimi, now Iraq's Defense Minister, opined that the reversal had to do as much with rising violence as with the realization that the post-CPA government was "an extension of the previous governing council" as opposed to an "Iraqi government of technocrats and experts who would handle the country's problems with an iron hand."

Pained tolerance of Coalition forces becomes, and remains, a combination of resignation, fear of violence and fear of the unknown.

A poll by the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies (IIACSS), an Iraqi independent scientific research institute which focuses on social issues, the first after Abu Ghraib, showed a stunning collapse of faith in foreign institutions:

  • Coalition forces were 2, 8, -6, and -81%
  • CPA was 2, 9, -7 and -78%
  • UN, interestingly, was 8, 21, -9, and -57%

Contrast that to the opinions toward:

  • Iraqi police at 47, 29, -6, and -16%
  • Iraqi Army at 33, 29, -9, and -20%

Upon seeing Abu Ghraib's prisoner abuse, 71% were surprised while 22% were not. Surprised Iraqis felt humiliated, found it unethical, did not expect same from CF and felt the US a hypocrite. More than half of Iraqis felt that "all Americans were like this." Coalition Forces have suffered a massive image deterioration and are now seen as occupiers (by 92%), a liability whose presence makes things more dangerous, and whose push for expulsion is now that the CF "are occupiers."

Compared to 3 months prior, the opinion of Moqtada al-Sadr was 81% up, between Better and Much better. Incidentally, only half of Iraqis felt safe in their own neighborhood. In response to which entities contribute most to Iraqis' sense of security, Neighbors and friends, family and Local police comprise 89%. Coalition forces, even including combined Coalition forces & Iraqi patrols, were only 2%.

The CSIS methodology used in the September 2004 Progress Or Peril? Measuring Iraq’s Reconstruction charts four quadrants, a Viable Zone (green in upper right) and Danger Zone (red in lower left) separated by two Gray Zones. In the update that followed, Security, Services, Education and Health care were all in the Danger Zone while Governance and Participation cycled between the Danger Zone and the adjacent Gray Zone. The kindest thing to say about Health care is that it tanked:

The data suggest the following findings:
1. Iraq has still not passed the tipping point, as defined in Progress or Peril, in any of the five sectors of reconstruction reviewed.
2. Iraq’s reconstruction continues to
stagnate; it is not yet moving on a sustained positive trajectory toward the tipping point or end-state in any of those sectors.
Within the areas of security, governance and participation, economic opportunity, services, and social well-being, there has been little overall positive or negative movement; there has, however, been some regression or progress within particular indicators reviewed… The health care sector has seen the most dramatic decline over the past few months.

In November 2004, The Lancet was reporting that Coalition aerial bombing may have killed upwards of 100,000 Iraqis, many of whom were civilians and many of those women and children. While the UK Prime Minister's Official Spokesperson (PMOS) "dismissed the study since its methodology was, he claimed, inappropriate" in that "methodology that had been used… appeared to be based on an extrapolation technique rather than a detailed body count", the "methodology of this study is very tight, but it does involve extrapolating from a small number and so could easily be substantially incorrect. But the methodology also is standard in such situations and was used in Bosnia and Kosovo."

Yes, the results are based upon extrapolation, and yes, there may be some exaggeration, but I submit that the true number is vastly more than the 16,000 dead which is derived solely from counting all fatalities as reported in the Western press, which it is charitable to say is only a portion of the true number. Iraq Body Count, whose database tracks 26-30,000 Iraqi dead, including some 7,350 dead from coalition military action during the "major-combat" phase prior to May 1st 2003, from all causes such as combat collateral, breakdowns in civil order, health and sanitation, is most reasonable in comparison (yet even it is disputed by Coalition authorities). I cannot resist commenting that after declining to publicize body counts of either combatants or collaterals, that US forces have revived combatant body counts to demonstrate the value of counterinsurgency ops.

The point that I am after here is that Iraqis have a wholly different opinion of the effects of Coalition bombardment and that we should be aware of it but are not.

The fall 2005 CIPE/Zogby business survey can represent the traditional Iraqi resourcefulness and entrepreneurship as it continues to reflect earlier, unrelated, polling that separates business opportunity from political conditions on the ground. One wonders what such firms want to say to foreign pollsters for foreign consumption. Iraq is a cash economy of overwhelmingly small companies with fewer than 20 employees. Sole proprietorships and family-owned businesses predominate. The majority say that they are optimistic, expecting growth in the national economy. In terms of sales, employment, and profits, newer companies, not unexpectedly, are more optimistic than older ones. Security and basic services such as water and electricity continue as major problems.

Apart from security, the most commonly perceived obstacle to economic growth is Iraq’s "lack of legal and regulatory enforcement." I have qualms over the survey when the question, What do you see as the major sources of corruption?, lists "weak property rights" as the leading answer across the board, beating out "Government discretion/extraction of bribes." I note that the last question in the survey, What are the three (3) main clauses you would like the new constitution to include?, varied widely depending where the respondent was located (Baghdad, Hilla, Arbil, Basra or Kirkuk), thus indirectly skirted religious and sectarian divides.

The as yet unreleased UK MOD report has already been covered above.

The Brookings Iraq Index is continuously updated, latest 27 Oct, 2005. The estimated strength of insurgency nationwide remains consistent: 15,000 by May 2004, 20,000 from July 04, to July 05, "neither gaining strength nor weakening appreciably" (with some estimates indicating higher numbers). The estimated number of foreign fighters in the insurgency has consistently held between 750 and 1,000 from Q4 2004 to date, save for the Sept 2005 jump to 750 and 2,000.

As to whom can improve the situation in Iraq:

  • Iraqi National Guard: A great deal/Quite a lot: 70+%
  • US military forces: Not very much/None at all: 76+%
  • The armed national opposition: Not very much/None at all: 55%

The issues most concerning the daily life of Iraqis are, in descending order: Inadequate electricity, Ethnic tensions, Presence of Multi-National Forces, Religious Tension, Lack of adequate housing, High prices, Corruption, Insurgent Violence, Unemployment, Crime, Low wages, Ensuring minority rights, National Security, Influence of Iraq's Neighbors, Healthcare, Water, Monthly Food Rations, Writing an acceptable constitution. has an extensive page Opinion Polls in Iraq for those who wish to dig deeper.

The point is that the US/UK are not doing well in a hearts and minds campaign, that Iraqis are not happy with us, and that there is ample and sustaining anger on the part of Sunni and Shia alike to support a continuing insurgency against Coalition forces. Mao Zedong observed:

Because guerrilla warfare basically derives from the masses and is supported by them, it can neither exist nor flourish if it separates itself from their sympathies and cooperation…. Many people think it is impossible for guerrillas to exist for long in the enemy’s rear. Such a belief reveals lack of comprehension of the relationship that should exist between the people and the troops. The former may be likened to water and the latter to the fish who inhabit it.… (Mao Tse-Tung 2000: 44, 92-93)

The fish in Iraq have a deep pond.

Iraq Index
Tracking Variables of Reconstruction & Security in Post-Saddam Iraq
Michael E. O’Hanlon and Nina Kamp
Brookings Institution
Updated October 27, 2005
For full source information for entries other than the current month, please see the Iraq Index archives

Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 23/10/2005)
Telegraph (UK)

Business Leader Attitudes Toward Commercial Activity, Employee Relations, and Government in Iraq
By The Center for International Private Enterprise & Zogby International
Fall 2005

Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey
The Lancet, Volume 364, Issue 9448, Pages 1857-1864
L. Roberts, R. Lafta, R. Garfield, J. Khudhairi, G. Burnham
19 November 2004
Related background material

Scientists: 100,000 Iraqis have died since war
October 29, 2004 - 2:24PM

Vicious Circle: The Dynamics of Occupation and Resistance in Iraq
Part One. Patterns of Popular Discontent
Project on Defense Alternatives Research Monograph #10
Carl Conetta
Project on Defense Alternatives
18 May 2005

Iraq: Recent Developments in Reconstruction Assistance
Curt Tarnoff
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service
CRS RL31833
Updated May 12, 2005

Progress Or Peril? Measuring Iraq’s Reconstruction
Frederick Barton, Bathsheba Crocker
September 2004
No longer on CSIS site but mirrored
here, here, and here

Progress Or Peril? Measuring Iraq’s Reconstruction
Frederick Barton, Bathsheba Crocker
Iraq Update, August-October 2004
No longer on CSIS site but mirrored here

Public Opinion in Iraq: First Poll Following Abu Ghraib Revelations
Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies (IIACSS)
15 June 2004

80% of Iraqis want US to stop patrolling cities
Jonathan Steele in Baghdad
June 29, 2004

Why Iyad Al Alawi?
Al Jazeera
6/7/2004 7:07:00 AM GMT

The Results Of the Public Opinion Poll in Iraq
The Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS)
June 2004

Iraqis Report Deepening Doubts About Legitimacy of the US-led Occupation
by Hannah Allam
May 9, 2004
has scrolled off
Google cache
Mirror here

Poll: Iraqis out of patience
By Cesar G. Soriano and Steven Komarow
Posted 4/28/2004 3:32 PM
Updated 4/30/2004 6:54 AM

Nearly 3 Million Iraqis, Sunni and Shiite, Approve of attacks on Americans
Juan Cole
Informed Comment
April 6, 2004

Poll: Most Iraq Shia Arabs Oppose Attacks
Associated Press
Posted on Mon, Apr. 05, 2004
Original scrolled off
Google cache

Results of Public Opinion Poll #3
The Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS)
23 October, 2003

Iraqi Public Has Wide Future Political System
Opinion Analysis
Office of Research
Department of State
(DoS commissioned ICRSS (approved by the CPA) in Baghdad to carry out the fieldwork)
October 21, 2003

Gordon Housworth

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