In yesterday's press conference, President Bush insisted that there would be no withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as long as he was president. He gave a long, scattered list of reasons. Among them was a claim put forward in a number of different ways that boiled down to this: "it's what the Iraqi people want."
The growing sense of insecurity affected all three of Iraq's major ethnic and religious groups. The number of Iraqis who "strongly agreed" that life is "unpredictable and dangerous" jumped from 41% to 48% of Shiites, from 67% to 79% of Sunnis, and from 16% to 50% of Kurds. The most recent survey, done in April this year, also asked for "the three main reasons for the U.S. invasion of Iraq." Less than 2% chose "to bring democracy to Iraq" as their first choice. The list was topped by "to control Iraqi oil" (76%), followed by "to build military bases" (41%) and "to help Israel" (32%).
The survey also asked a direct question about the presence of American troops in Iraq (which
for some reason was not included either in Kaplan's story or in the
University of Michigan press release). Tessler kindly provided me with a short write-up of the data, forthcoming in the TAARI Newsletter. Here is Table 3, responses to the question "Do you support or oppose the presence of coalition forces in Iraq?"
The bottom line: 91.7% of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition troops in the country, up from 74.4% in 2004. 84.5% are "strongly opposed". Among Sunnis, opposition to the US presence went from 94.5% to 97.9% (97.2% "strongly opposed"). Among Shia, opposition to the US presence went from 81.2% to 94.6%, with "strongly opposed" going from 63.5% to 89.7%. Even among the Kurds, opposition went from 19.6% to 63.3%. In other words, it isn't just that Iraqis oppose the American presence - it's that their feelings are intense: only 7.2% "somewhat oppose" and 4.7% "somewhat support."
Maybe there are reasons for keeping American troops in Iraq, but "it's what the Iraqi people want" really doesn't seem to be one of them.