Iraqis' Own Surge Assessment: Few See Security Gains

In terms of the country more broadly, in November 2005 a bare majority of Iraqis, 52 percent, said things were going badly. That rose to 65 percent last March, and 78 percent in this poll. The latest change includes a huge 40-point jump in negativity among Kurds, who enjoy far better living conditions in their northern provinces, but seem to have grown more alarmed about the situation to the south.

Expectations that the country will be in better shape a year off, at just 23 percent, are a third of their November 2005 level. Positive expectations have fallen by 23 points among Shiites and by 34 points among Kurds; they remain rock-bottom among Sunni Arabs.

Surge and Security

Overall assessments of security show no improvement since last winter, and direct ratings of the surge are highly negative. In one measure, the number of Iraqis who rate their local security positively (43 percent) is no better than it was in March. In another, as noted, just 24 percent say local security has improved in the last six months, including 16 percent in Baghdad, and not one respondent in Anbar.

Even fewer, 11 percent nationally, think security has improved in the country as a whole.

The widespread nature of the violence is part of this. In Baghdad, 52 percent report car bombings or suicide attacks in their local area, the same as in March; but so do 39 percent in the country, up from 26 percent six months ago. Accounts of other forms of violence -- such as snipers or crossfire, kidnappings for ransom and sectarian or factional fighting -- also remain widespread, though their prevalence has not increased.

Across the country overall, feelings of personal safety are no better than in March; just 26 percent of Iraqis feel "very safe" in their own neighborhood. And that's almost nonexistent across Iraq's major metro areas -- Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk and Mosul -- where 98 percent of residents feel either "not very safe" (50 percent) or "not safe at all" (48 percent). Ratings of personal safety are better, though hardly good, in Iraq's smaller cities, villages and rural areas.

Direct ratings of the surge itself are particularly negative. At best, only 18 percent of Iraqis say it has improved security in surge areas; at worst, just six percent say it's improved the pace of economic development. Indeed, as noted, the surge broadly is seen to have done more harm than good, with 65 to 70 percent saying it's worsened rather than improved security in surge areas, security in other areas, conditions for political dialogue, the ability of the Iraqi government to do its work, the pace of reconstruction and the pace of economic development.

Every respondent in Baghdad, and also in Anbar (where George W. Bush paid a surprise visit to a sprawling U.S. base last week), says the surge has made security worse now than it was six months ago (anti-U.S. sentiment in these areas is very high, and likely a factor in these direct assessments). Views in the rest of the country are hardly positive: Outside Baghdad and Anbar, still just 26 percent say the surge has improved security.

A broader question, not specifically linked to the surge, has an equally negative result: Just 18 percent of Iraqis say the presence of U.S. forces is making security better in their country overall, about the same as in March (21 percent). Instead 72 percent say the U.S. presence is making Iraq's security worse.

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