Iraqis' Own Surge Assessment: Few See Security Gains

Seventy-nine percent of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition forces in the country, essentially unchanged from last winter -- including more than eight in 10 Shiites and nearly all Sunni Arabs. (Seven in 10 Kurds, by contrast, still support the presence of these forces.)

Similarly, 80 percent of Iraqis disapprove of the way U.S. and other coalition forces have performed in Iraq; the only change has been an increase in negative ratings of the U.S. performance among Kurds. And 86 percent of Iraqis express little or no confidence in U.S. and U.K. forces, similar to last winter and again up among Kurds.

Accusations of mistreatment continue: Forty-one percent of Iraqis in this poll (vs. 44 percent in March) report unnecessary violence against Iraqi citizens by U.S. or coalition forces. That peaks at 63 percent among Sunni Arabs, and 66 percent in Sunni-dominated Anbar.

This disapproval rises to an endorsement of violence: Fifty-seven percent of Iraqis now call attacks on coalition forces "acceptable," up six points from last winter and more than three times its level (17 percent) in February 2004. Since March, acceptability of such attacks has risen by 15 points among Shiites (from 35 percent to 50 percent), while remaining near-unanimous among Sunnis (93 percent).

Kurds, by contrast -- protected by the United States when Saddam remained in power -- continue almost unanimously to call these attacks unacceptable.

Acceptability of attacks on U.S. forces also varies by locale, peaking at 100 percent in Anbar, 69 percent in Kirkuk city and 60 percent in Baghdad, compared with 38 percent in Basra and just three percent in the northern Kurdish provinces.


Given such hostile views, 47 percent now say the United States and other coalition forces should leave Iraq immediately -- a view that's risen equally among Sunni Arabs (72 percent now say the U.S. should leave immediately, up 17 points) and Shiites (44 percent, up 16 points). Kurds almost unanimously disagree; just eight percent favor an immediate withdrawal.

The number of Iraqis favoring an immediate U.S. withdrawal has risen from 26 percent in November 2005 and 35 percent last winter; at 47 percent it's now a plurality for the first time (in the next most-popular option, 34 percent say U.S. forces should "remain until security is restored"). The fact that support for an immediate pullout of U.S. forces is not even higher, given the vast unpopularity of their presence, likely reflects the uncertainty of what might follow their departure.

Indeed, apart from Kurds, support for immediate withdrawal is lowest, and has risen the least, in Baghdad, whose mixed Shiite-Sunni status puts it at particular risk. Desire for the United States to "leave now" is highest in Anbar, still deeply anti-American despite any accommodation its leaders have made with the U.S. military.

The rise in support for U.S. withdrawal is linked to worsening views of the country's condition. People who think things are going badly for Iraq are far more likely to favor immediate withdrawal -- 56 percent vs. 16 percent. Similarly, people who are pessimistic about the country's future also are far more likely to favor withdrawal -- 53 percent, vs. 23 percent among optimists. With optimism down, support for withdrawal is up.

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