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Iraqi Pollster: U.S. Must Be Engaged in Iraq

Polls show few Iraqis trust Maliki government

Iraqi refugees from Mosul at Khazir refugee camp outside Irbil / AP
• June 26, 2014 7:00 pm

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Iraq’s most experienced public pollster presented data explaining how Iraqis view the current crisis in their country while stressing the United States needs to be more engaged in Iraq as an "objective and honest broker" in order to help quell the fighting during a Freedom House event on Wednesday.

"If [the United States] made a mistake in 2003 by consulting the wrong persons and getting the wrong data, now it is a duty of all Iraqis to give the right consultancy and prove the right information to this administration to take the right decision," Munqith al-Dagher said.

Al-Dagher conducted a nationwide survey that concluded on June 19, 10 days after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took over Mosul.

Out of 200 Iraqis surveyed, al-Dagher found that 19 percent believe ISIL controls Iraq’s second largest city and 81.5 percent of the Sunni-majority city feel Mosul is safer now than it was when Shia Iraqi Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki controlled the city.

Iraqis throughout the country were united in their distrust in their country’s central government. In March, al-Dagher found 85 percent of Iraqis believed their country is heading in the wrong direction. Before the Iraqi civil war in the mid-2000s, 70 percent of Iraqis said the same. Both groups also shared dislike for terrorism, with 92 percent of Shia disdaining terrorism while the Sunnis are at 88.4 percent.

Al-Dagher found that 81 percent of Sunnis believe Iraq would be a better place if religion and state were separated. Sixty percent of Sunnis said the same a decade ago. For the Sunnis, recognition of Iraq as a country, not for its religions, is at the core for their identity.

Al-Dagher warned that U.S. airstrikes or any allegiances with Iran would only embolden ISIL and improve their recruitment.

The pollster called for new relationships to be forged between Iraq’s regions and a new centralized government and stressed urgency in improving the relationship with Iraqis and their government. Al-Dagher said Iraqis could successfully fight back and defeat the extremists if they knew they had a government worth fighting for. He urged the need for moderates on both sides to reconcile their differences and that addressing the grievances of the Sunnis may be the last chance for a unified Iraq.

Al-Dagher said that only the United States has the credibility with all Iraqis to help reconcile Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds with each other to ensure each has their fair share in the government.

"[Gen. David] Petraeus recognized that there is no way to defeat Al-Qaeda in Iraq, but to cooperate with people on the ground. There are people on the ground right now who can defeat ISIL easily. They have the desire, the arms, they have everything, but they need to see a reason to defeat ISIL since ISIL is fighting against their enemy, the central government. I think the approach is not to send your sons to fight in Iraq but to let Iraqis and Sunnis fight and kick the devil, which is named ISIL from the territories," al-Dagher said.

Published under: Iraq, Islamic State