Wednesday, March 17, 2004

on the other hand you have a hand with a bomb in it
A year after US led coalition forces toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a majority of Iraqis still oppose what over 40% regard as a humiliation at the hands of the West, according to a comprehensive survey by the BBC and international media organisations. And a year into the occupation, almost one sixth of the Iraqi population support attacks on the coalition and its Iraqi partners and employees that have left thousands dead and which threaten to destabilise the country in its transition to democracy.

A year after US led coalition forces toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a majority of Iraqis now hail those they call the “liberators” of their country, according to a comprehensive survey by the BBC and international media organisations. Iraqi opinion is mainly united against the terrorist attacks by insurgents, and a majority want coalition forces to stay on and help oversee the country’s transition to democracy.

Yes, it’s the same poll. Given the variety if interpretations that it’s justifiable to make from it, it’s notable that every outlet I’ve seen have led on the good news and tucked the caveats below the fold. A couple of features I found significant:

In one change from the first national poll in Iraq by Oxford Research International last fall, more now call for a "single strong Iraqi leader" — 47 percent say one will be needed a year from now, up from 27 percent previously. That's more than say "an Iraqi democracy" will be needed, now 28 percent (essentially unchanged).

35% also say that they want a “single, strong leader” five years from now.

There’s also a bit more than meets the eye than the headline figures reveal. Once Kurdish opinion is separated out from Arab opinion, the positive numbers are still good, but not quite as impressive. Perhaops the most salient of these is am,ongst those who say they support the insurgents. Strip out the Kurds and the figure rises from 15-20%. One fifth is poor by electoral standards, but easily enough to sustain a bombing campaign indefinitely.

What the poll does not do in this question is separate Sunni and Shia respondents. Given that Shia muslims and their Imams have been a target for insurgents, it follows that they are going to be hostile to the insurgency in overwhelming numbers. That being the case, the numbers of Sunnis who support the insurgents would rise sharply. Maybe enough for a civil war, as Robert Fisk argues in his majestic anniversary piece published last Sunday? Surely enough for at least a medium intensity guerilla conflict.