What civil war? Iraqis say life is getting better

It might seem difficult to believe (and for some clearly impossible), but according to an opinion poll published in the Sunday Times today many Iraqis say that life is getting better.

It isn’t a story that is reflected in some parts of the media where the overall impression given is one of solid negativity.

The poll by Opinion Research Business (of more than 5,000) says that most Iraqis believe life is better now than it was under Saddam Hussein. Naturally the figures give an ethnically divided picture with Shi’ites happier than Sunnis, but importantly it shows optimism despite the sectarian violence.

The research found that while one in four has had a relative kidnapped, with the same number having had a family member murdered, when asked whether they preferred life under Saddam or under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki most replied that things were better for them today and in doing so display an extraordinary resilience as those are brutal and almost impossible to grasp statistics for anyone in the West.

On the issue of the civil war the research tells an even more interesting story. More than 61% don’t think there is one – that’s right no civil war. That figure includes Shi’ites and Sunnis alike. Just 27% think there is a civil war.

The report goes on to say that those living in northern Baghdad were heartened to see on the concrete blocks protecting an Iraqi army checkpoint the words: “Down, down with the militias, we are fighting for the sake of Iraq”. It would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago. Residents said they noted that armed militias were off the streets.

This points to the early success that the surge of US and Iraqi forces now on the streets are having. While portrayed as too little too late by critics of the war the move is being seen in a different light by Iraqis who are living with this change.

By a majority of two to one, Iraqis believe military operations now under way will disarm all militias. More than half say security will improve after a withdrawal of multinational forces.

It shows what could have been done sooner if the Americans had listened to the advice that told them that, while the Rumsfeld doctrine works fine for offence, it was boots on the ground that would win the peace.

The paper quotes foreign secretary Margaret Beckett who sums up making the point that “the picture is more complex than the stereotype usually portrayed”. Stereotype exactly.

UPDATE – As we’re balanced around here, I thought I would add this, which was highlighed in the posts this morning.

It’s another piece of research, the full results of aren’t out until later today, but here’s the top line, which appears to be is in stark contrast to the poll in the Sunday Times.

The poll, commissioned by the BBC, ABC News and USA Today, says Iraqis have become less optimistic about their future with only 18% showing confidence in US and coalition troops.

However, like the first poll, opinion is evenly split along the usual lines on confidence in Iraq’s government. More later.

UPDATE 2 – Those results are now in and as the BBC points out it paints a picture of an increasingly polarised Iraq with Sunnis less optimistic than any other group, which to be fair is what the other poll said as well.

Despite that pessimism, and the differences, 58% overall said they wanted Iraq to remain a unified country and not broken up along sectarian lines.

More stats
18% said they had confidence in US and coalition troops,
51% said they thought attacks on coalition forces were justified.
35% said foreign troops should leave Iraq now.
63% said they should go only after security has improved.
67% thought reconstruction efforts in Iraq had been effective

And more stats
38% said the situation in the country was better than before the 2003 war
50% said it was worse
47% thought the US was right, or somewhat right, to invade
53% thought the US was wrong

This is highlighted most acutely over the manner of Saddam’s death.
95% of Sunni Arabs said they regarded the manner of his death as inappropriate and unlikely to help the cause of reconciliation.
82% of Shi’tes thought the opposite.

On democracy
46% of Sunnis said they wanted a democracy and 52% of Shi’ites.

Download the full results in PDF format here.