Security Gains Reverse Iraq's Spiral
Though Serious Problems Remain

For all this, Baghdad and Anbar are hardly hotbeds of optimism. Just a quarter in Anbar say things are going well in their own lives (though that's up from no one last August); so do 41 percent in Baghdad, compared with 62 percent elsewhere. Compared to others in Iraq, fewer in either Anbar or Baghdad rate the country's situation positively, or expect their own lives, or the country's condition, to improve in the year ahead.

Another challenge is the strength of militias, especially in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite Sadr City area: There 70 percent express confidence in the local militia, far more than the level of militia support in the rest of the country (20 percent) and greater than the level of confidence among Sadr City residents in either the national government (55 percent) or the Iraqi army (42 percent).

RECONCILIATION vs. DIVISION – Other results, however, show majority support for internal cohesion and reconciliation in Iraq. In one example, 89 percent of Iraqis say Sunnis, many of whom boycotted previous elections, should now participate in the political process – including 95 percent of Sunnis themselves.

One in six Iraqis say the separation of people along sectarian lines has occurred in their area – almost exclusively in Baghdad and Basra, where (excluding Baghdad's Sadr City) it's reported by 36 and 34 percent respectively – almost all of whom say it's been mainly forcible rather than voluntary. Yet 92 percent call this a bad thing for Iraq. And 69 percent favor allowing former low- and mid-level members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to hold government jobs – including 63 percent of Shiites, despite their suppression by the Baathist system.

On a structural level, 66 percent of Iraqis say the country should continue as a unified nation with its central government in Baghdad, as opposed to a confederation of regional states or outright partition. While Sunnis have been and almost unanimously remain behind a single state, there's been an advance in this view among Shiites, from 41 percent last March to 56 percent in August and 67 percent now. The holdouts are Kurds, nearly all of whom want autonomy or semi-autonomy (details below).

Despite support for cohesion, the country nonetheless is very much divided along sectarian lines. Slightly more than half of Iraqis say they live in Shiite-only or Sunni-only areas (26 percent in each); add those who live in predominantly Sunni or Shiite areas and just 15 percent describe themselves as living in mixed locales. This is even though Sunnis Arabs account for 30 percent of all Iraqis in this survey, Shiites 51 percent and Kurds (who are Sunnis, but not Sunni Arabs) nearly all the rest.

Iraqis also divide evenly on the state of Shiite-Sunni relations – 48 percent say they're good, 51 percent bad – with more Shiites saying they're good (58 percent) than Sunni Arabs who agree (37 percent). Shiites also are more apt than Sunnis to say relations between people of these two doctrines are improving, 47 percent vs. 29 percent.

About half of Iraqis say they have a close friend of another doctrine; of them, 18 percent say it's not safe for them to associate publicly. And in one other result on doctrinal divisions, 59 percent of Iraqis say they'd refuse to have a grown child of theirs marry a person of another religious doctrine.

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