FEELS ABOUT THE OCCUPATION
The Second National Opinion
Poll in Iraq
JNV Anti-War Briefing 56 (19 March 2004)
IRAQ REJECTS THE
The majority of Iraqi people oppose the presence of US/UK
occupation forces in their country and do not believe that the
US and UK should be involved in restoring public security or
holding elections in Iraq. So says the second nationwide
opinion poll carried out since the war, a poll commissioned
by the BBC and carried out in February 2004 by Oxford
Research International. (Full results of the poll are
available in pdf format from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3514504.stm.)
51.2% of Iraqis oppose the presence
of the US/UK occupation forces (31.3% strongly). Only 39.5%
66.3% of people do not have confidence
in the US and UK occupation forces. Only 25.3% do have some
confidence. 62.2% do not have confidence in the US/UK Coalition
Provisional Authority (CPA). Only 27.9% have some confidence
in the CPA.
Only 12.7% of Iraqis think the occupation Forces or the United
States should be involved in regaining public security in Iraq.
49.5% think it should be an Iraqi government or the Iraqi people.
Only 7.4% of Iraqis think the occupation
forces/the US should hold the elections for a new Iraqi national
government. 8.7% think the Governing Council should do it.
23.9% think it should be the Iraqi people; 18.2% go for the
What kind of regime does Iraq need now?
31.6% opted for the CPA. 57.3% said Iraq did not need the
CPA (36.9 strongly).
IRAQIS SAY, US/UK
TROOPS OUT... BUT NOT NOW
Asked whether they supported or opposed the presence of US/UK
occupation forces (Coalition Forces) in Iraq, 31.3%
strongly opposed and 19.6% somewhat opposed their presence.
26.3% somewhat supported and 13.2% strongly supported their
presence. Thats 50.2% opposing the occupation against
But, as we pointed out in JNV Briefing
50, there is a great deal of ambivalence in the Iraqi attitude
to the US/UK forces. The vast majority of the Iraqi people
do not want immediate withdrawal. Asked how long the occupation
forces should stay, Iraqis gave these responses: leave
now (15.1%); a few months (8.3%); six
months to a year (6.1%); more than one year
(4.3%). 18.3% said They should remain until security is
restored. The bulk of people, however, said, They
should remain until an Iraqi government is in place (35.8%).
(Only 1.5% said, They should never leave, and 10.6%
Two opinion polls last summer also found
that immediate withdrawal was favoured only by a minority of
Iraqis. A poll in Baghdad for Channel 4 News, published in the
Spectator on 19 July, found that only 13% wanted the US and
British troops to leave immediately. As many as 76% want
them to stay for the time being56%, wanting them to remain
for at least 12 months. http://www.channel4.com/news/2003/07/week_3/16_poll.html
Then a US-conducted poll conducted outside
Baghdad found that only 31% of people polled in four Iraqi cities
wanted US/UK troop withdrawal within the next six months. But
65.5% of Iraqis demanded withdrawal within a year. (FT, 11 Sept.,
p. 11) This greater impatience might have been to do with the
changing political situation, or because the poll was outside
It is hard to know whether there is greater
impatience now than last summer because it is not clear from
the latest opinion poll what is meant by until an Iraqi
government is in place. Does this mean an interim government,
or does it mean a directly-elected government? On the US timetable,
the interim government will be here at the end of June, and
the directly-elected government by 31 Dec. 2005. Were the people
responding to the poll ready to wait this long?
THE SECURITY PROBLEM
If the Iraqi people are so strongly opposed to the occupation,
why would they support its retention? In JNV Briefing 49 six
months ago, we argued that the Iraqi people seem to want
some outside military presence, for security reasons.
This still seems to be the reason.
Asked the single biggest problem
in their lives, the most popular answer (named by twice as many
people as the next option) was lack of security/stability
(22.1%). Next were no job (11.8%) and rising
prices (9.5%). Then came poor electricity supply
(4.2%), housing problems (4.1%), poor public
services (water, roads, etc.) (3.7%), and poor living
standard (3.8%). The occupation was named
by only 1.1% of people.
However, asked about the security situation
in their own neighbourhood, while 50.1% said it was bad, 48.9%
said it was good.
Nevertheless, asked what was the top priority
for the next year, 64.4% of people said regaining public
security, and no other option received more than 8.1%
(holding elections for national government).
Incidentally, the overwhelming second priority
was economic: rebuilding the infrastructure at 28.6%,
then reviving the economy at 14.7%. The top two
choices for the third national priority were rebuilding
the infrastructure (19.2%) and holding elections for national
government at 13.5%.
THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT
So it seems that the reluctant acceptance of the occupation
forces is based on the continuing fear of social chaos. Anecdotal
reports in the mainstream media confirm this analysis.
Given that the anti-war movement wants
to bring an end to the occupation as soon as possible, there
are only two demands that could be made which would be consistent
with Iraqi public opinion: establish an Iraqi government and
then get the troops out; or get the troops out as soon as possible
to be replaced by another international security force uncontaminated
by Washington or London.
The problem with the first route, which
is what the British and US governments would say is their actual
policy (except that they do not intend to withdraw fully), is
that a government which is formed under occupation cannot be
US/UK OUT: UN IN
Therefore, if the anti-war movement is to pay heed to the expressed
wishes of the Iraqi people (as determined in several polls),
we should abandon the demand for troops out now
and call instead for the rapid replacement of US/UK occupation
forces, and the withdrawal of US/UK political and economic advisers.
THE UN OPTION
JNV believes there should be a UN transitional administration
in Iraq to support Iraqi political parties in transforming their
society. In straw polls carried out in dozens of anti-war meetings
across England, Wales and Scotland last autumn, this had majority
support in all but one of the meetings.
Admittedly, the UN option is not popular
in Iraq: only 0.6% of people think they should be involved in
regaining security; and only 3.5% think they should be involved
in helping Iraqis regain control over their country; and only
6% think they should be involved in holding national elections
- but the Iraqi Governing Council only gets the support of 8.7%
of people, the US 5.3% and the CPA only 0.3%!
But if people in Iraq were presented with
the choice between a US/UK occupation, a UN transitional authority
free from US domination, or simple US/UK withdrawal, it is hard
to believe they would not opt for the UN in those circumstances,
given the poll results on withdrawal and security.
Finally, needless to say, BBC/mainstream
reports of the ORI poll did not highlight massive Iraqi opposition
to the occupation, focusing on the fact that most Iraqi people
feel the situation is going to improve over the next year (eg
Survey finds hope in occupied Iraq, BBC News Online,
16 Mar.; Simon Tisdall, Guardian, 19 Mar.).
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