Published on Wednesday, September 27, 2006 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Most Iraqis Want US to Leave Now
Country would be safer, less violent, they tell pollsters
by Amit R. Paley
A strong majority of Iraqis want U.S.-led military forces to immediately withdraw from the country, saying their swift departure would make Iraq more secure and decrease sectarian violence, according to new polls by the State Department and independent researchers.
In Baghdad, for example, nearly three-quarters of residents polled said they would feel safer if U.S. and other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate pullout, according to polling results obtained by the Washington Post.
Another new poll, scheduled to be released today by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, found that 71 percent of Iraqis questioned want the Iraqi government to ask foreign forces to depart within a year. By large margins, though, Iraqis believe the U.S. government would refuse the request, with 77 percent of those polled saying the United States intends to keep permanent military bases in the country.
The stark assessments, among the most negative attitudes toward U.S.-led forces since they invaded Iraq in 2003, contrast sharply with views expressed by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Last week at the United Nations, President Jalal Talabani said coalition troops should remain in the country until Iraqi security forces are "capable of ending terrorism and maintaining stability and security."
"Only then will it be possible to talk about a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational force from Iraq," he said.
Recent polls show many Iraqis in nearly every part of the country disagree.
"Majorities in all regions except Kurdish areas state that the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) should withdraw immediately, adding that the MNF-I's departure would make them feel safer and decrease violence," concludes the 20-page State Department report, titled "Iraq Civil War Fears Remain High in Sunni and Mixed Areas." The report was based on 1,870 face-to-face interviews conducted from June 26 to July 6.
The Program on International Policy Attitudes poll, which was conducted over the first three days of September for WorldPublicOpinion.org, found that support among Sunnis for a withdrawal of all U.S.-led forces within six months dropped to 57 percent in September from 83 percent in January.
"There is a kind of softening of Sunni attitudes toward the U.S.," said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes and editor of WorldPublicOpinion.org. "But you can't go so far as to say the majority of Sunnis don't want the U.S. out. They do. They're just not quite in the same hurry as they were before."
The Program on International Policy Attitudes poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percent, was carried out by Iraqis in all 18 provinces who conducted interviews with more than 1,000 randomly selected Iraqis in their homes.
Using complex sampling methods based on data from Iraq's Planning Ministry, the pollsters selected streets to conduct interviews. In urban areas, they then contacted every third house on the left side of the road. When they selected a home, the interviewers then collected the names and birthdates of everyone who lived there and polled the person with the most recent birthday.
Matthew Warshaw, a senior research manager at D3 systems, which helped conduct the poll, said he did not think Iraqis were any less likely to share their true opinions with pollsters than Americans. "It's a concern you run up against in Iowa or in Iraq," he said.
The State Department report did not give a detailed methodology for its poll, which it said was carried out by an unnamed Iraqi polling firm.
The director of another Iraqi polling firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being killed, said public opinion surveys he conducted last month showed that 80 percent of Iraqis questioned favored an immediate withdrawal.
"The very fact that there is such a low support for American forces has to do with the American failure to do basically anything for Iraqis," said Mansoor Moaddel, a professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University.
©2006 San Francisco Chronicle