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Iraqis Do Not Trust Americans, Says Poll

September 11, 2003

by Guy Dinmore

Published on Thursday, September 11, 2003 by the Financial Times/UK

Braving bullets, arrests and hot pursuit while carrying out the first scientific survey of Iraqi public opinion, pollsters commissioned by a conservative US think-tank have discovered that most Iraqis do not trust Americans and want to be left alone.

John Zogby, president of Zogby International which completed the poll last month, summed up the findings on Wednesday, saying that, like most Arabs, Iraqis want to “control their own destiny”, without the intervention of outside forces, and are confident in their own ability.

“Now that tyranny is over,” he said, “it is time to move forward but not as a colony.”

In that sense Iraqis broadly agree, but for different reasons, with the Bush administration’s stated goal of handing over power and getting out as soon as possible.

Commissioned by the American Enterprise Institute, the pollsters sought to survey a representative cross-section of Iraqi society by going to four cities: Mosul and Kirkuk in the north, Ramadi in the mostly anti-US Sunni area of central Iraq, and Basra in the Shia south. A total of 600 people were interviewed in public places.

In Ramadi the pollsters were caught in crossfire in an ambush of US forces. One was arrested by Kurds in the north, while others were chased by car. In Basra some were detained for 24 hours.

Asked if the US and UK should help make sure a fair government is set up in Iraq, or should the Iraqis work this out themselves, 31.5 per cent wanted help while 58.5 per cent did not.

Some 38.2 per cent agreed that democracy could work well in Iraq, while 50.2 per cent agreed with the statement that “democracy is a western way of doing things and it will not work here”.

Asked whether in the next five years the US would “help” Iraq, 35.3 per cent said yes while 50 per cent said the US would “hurt” Iraq. Asked the same of the UN, the figures were almost reversed, with 50.2 per cent saying it would help and 18.5 per cent the opposite.

Reguarding US and British troops, some 31 per cent wanted them to leave in six months and a total of 65.5 per cent in a year. Some 25 per cent said they should stay two years or more.

Interviewees were given a list of five countries they would like to model Iraq after.

A total of 36 per cent chose the four Middle Eastern countries listed (16 per cent for Saudi Arabia, 11 per cent for Syria, 6.5 per cent for Egypt and 2.8 per cent for Iran) while 21.5 per cent settled for the US, the only western country listed.

Seven out of 10 Iraqis think their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now.

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