Security Gains Reverse Iraq's Spiral
Though Serious Problems Remain

LIVING CONDITIONS – One thing on which Iraqis tend to agree is the difficult state of their living conditions. In the single worst item, 88 percent say their supply of electricity is bad. (In another measure, just two in 10 report receiving electricity from power lines for more than 12 hours a day, although that is up from just 12 percent last March.)

It's not just about power. Eight in 10 lack adequate fuel for cooking or driving. Sixty-eight percent rate their supply of clean water negatively. Sixty-two percent say they lack adequate medical care, a number that's grown sharply from 36 percent in November 2005 – likely relating to the flight of doctors, among other professionals, who've had the wherewithal to leave the country.

As noted, ratings of local security and family finances are sharply better; so is protection from crime – closely related to security and now rated positively by 54 percent, up from 35 percent in August (but still below its peak, 66 percent in November 2005).

The biggest improvement, also as noted, is in the availability of basic household goods, up 26 points to 65 percent positive. Laggards, though, include some essentials: electricity, medical care, clean water, fuel, enough jobs to go around and freedom of movement.

THE KURDS – The semi-autonomous Kurdish north continues as an exception in many cases. Spared the disruption to the south, Kurds are vastly more apt to say they have clean water, adequate medical care and sufficient jobs, and to rate local government positively.

Nine in 10 Kurds say their local security and crime protection are good, compared with, respectively, just 35 percent and 23 percent of Sunni Arabs. Electricity and fuel, though, are as big a problem in the Kurdish provinces as elsewhere.

There are attitudinal differences too. Suppressed by Saddam and long supported by the United States, the Kurds have far more favorable views of the invasion (87 percent support it, compared with 5 percent of Sunni Arabs) and the subsequent performance of U.S. forces in Iraq (63 percent positive, compared with 7 percent of Sunni Arabs), including the effectiveness of the surge.

Kurds, as noted, are far less wedded to the idea of maintaining Iraq as a single, centrally controlled state; envisioning a fully independent Kurdistan, 52 percent prefer breaking Iraq into separate independent states (it was very similar, 49 percent, in August, up from 30 percent last March). An additional 35 percent would like to see a federation of regional states, with just 10 percent for a single unified country run from Baghdad.

This poll was conducted after some Turkish incursions into Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish separatist forces of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, but before the heaviest recent cross-border attacks. Sixty-one percent of Kurds called Turkish incursions unjustified (as did more Shiites, 77 percent, but many fewer Sunni Arabs, who are more closely attuned to Sunni-dominated Turkey).

A large majority of Sunnis, and a smaller majority of Shiites, said Iraq is not doing enough to control the PKK (80 and 58 percent, respectively); far fewer Kurds, 34 percent, agreed.

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