Numbers game

The Observer cites a new poll of Iraqi opinion (detail here):

A poll released this week showed that 67 per cent of Iraqis view the American-led coalition as ‘occupying powers’, more than 20 per cent higher than a survey conducted shortly after the fall of the former regime. According to the poll, conducted by Iraq’s Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, the number of Iraqis who view the coalition as a ‘liberating’ force has dropped from 43 to 15 per cent, and very few feel safe in the presence of the police or foreign armies controlling the country.

Given the situation in the country and the way that occupation has been handled this is hardly surprising. But is it not the case that the US-UK presence is both a liberating force and an occupying power? Surely the real question is do Iraqis think that the occupation is going to end with a successful working democracy?

In a second blow to US and British hopes for a Western-modelled democracy in Iraq, the poll also revealed that the vast majority of Iraqis preferred an Islamist government – 33 per cent supporting a theocracy and 23 per cent an Islamic democracy such as that in Iran.

I’d like to see how this question was phrased. If you ask Muslims whether they would prefer an Islamic democracy (and is Iran really that?) or a ‘western’ democracy, then there is a good chance you are going to get answers like this. But, having said that, 33 percent support for a theocracy is disturbing. Support for ”democracy” was at 30.5 percent.

But what should disturb the American and British occupiers the most is the judgement on their main work over the past few months – bringing security to everyday life.

Asked who could best provide security, 62.5 percent of Iraqis said family, relatives and neighbours and 12 percent replied Iraqi police. Joint patrols by police and coalition forces were seen as the best guarantor by 4.2 percent, neighbourhood patrols by 3.2 percent and coalition forces were last at three percent.

That’s a damning response showing that the coalition has utterly failed to win the confidence of the population in what is the key preliminary task.

There is no point supporters of the war trying to kid themselves that things are going well in Iraq – they obviously aren’t. The claims of some that the media is not reporting good news can’t deflect from the fact that there is an awful lot of bad news to report.