Gallup Poll of Iraq: Iraqis View Visible Cooperation With CPA as Potentially Fatal

by Richard Burkholder, International Bureau Chief

On May 17, Iraq's highest-ranking official, Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) president Ezzidin Salim, was assassinated. A suicide bomber drove a Volkswagen alongside Salim's vehicle as he awaited clearance to enter Baghdad's Green Zone, where Salim was to attend an IGC meeting. The bomb killed Salim and six other Iraqis. Two days later, the "Monotheism and Jihad Group" -- linked to al Qaeda and reportedly led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- issued a statement claiming "credit" for the killing, and threatening other IGC dignitaries with a similar end.    

Salim's assassination was the latest in a continuing campaign targeting anyone seen to be cooperating with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) -- or indeed, anyone taking an active role in the country's post-invasion reconstruction efforts. In September, Aquila al-Hashimi, the IGC's only female member, was fatally shot near her residence. Numerous mayors, deputy mayors, judges, and local council members have also been slain over the past year.

The great majority of those killed, however, have not been visible public officials, but ordinary Iraqis providing other crucial services -- such as policemen, translators, and administrators. Most have died in small, unpublicized attacks; the day before Salim was killed, for example, three Iraqi women, one of them a translator, were murdered for working with U.S. troops.

Do average Iraqis see cooperating with the CPA as a tangible threat to their wellbeing? How much support does the targeting of Iraqis labeled as "collaborators" have among the Iraqi population as a whole?

Cooperation With CPA Seen as Dangerous

Gallup's nationwide poll of 3,444 Iraqis indicates nearly 7 in 10 (69%) believe their lives (or the lives of their family members) would be in danger if they were viewed as cooperating with the CPA. Only about one in five Iraqis (22%) told Gallup they disagree with this assessment, and the percentage falls to just 13% outside of the largely self-governing Kurdish north.  

Not surprisingly, fear of being seen as a collaborator is highest in the Sunni-dominated provinces of central Iraq. In the governorates of al Anbar and Salah ad Din, 93% of residents said they believe that being seen as cooperating with the CPA would put them in mortal danger.

More shocking, perhaps, is the fact that nearly as high a proportion of Baghdad's 6.4 million residents (88%) share this same concern. In particular, the attitudinal climate within Baghdad's huge Shiite ghetto of Sadr City (formerly Saddam City) appears to have shifted dramatically since late last summer. At the time of Gallup's August 2003 survey of Baghdad, Sadr City's residents were disproportionately supportive of the coalition's actions -- positive appraisals of the CPA outnumbered negative ones by nearly a 2-to-1 margin (41% to 22%). In this latest survey, however, nearly all residents of Sadr City (97%) said that being perceived as cooperating with the CPA would place their lives (or those of their family members) at risk.

Iraqis Sharply Divided Regarding Impact of Cooperating With CPA

Overall, Iraqis split almost evenly when asked whether cooperating with the CPA is likely to speed up the process of stabilizing the country and improving the quality of life: 45% of Iraqis agree with this assertion, while 42% disagree. This near-even split conceals major differences along ethnic and geographic lines, however.

In Kurdish Sulaymaniyah -- effectively self-governing since 1992 -- there is near-universal agreement (97%) that cooperation with the CPA will hasten both stability and a better life for all. Outside the Kurdish north, however, Iraqis are more likely to take the opposite view: 37% believe cooperating with the CPA will improve things, while nearly half (48%) believe it will not. Within predominantly Arab areas of Iraq, the belief that cooperation with the CPA will facilitate stabilization and wellbeing is highest in the predominantly southern Shiite governorates, where a slim plurality accepts this proposition.

Attacks on Iraqi Police "Collaborators" Draw Near-Universal Condemnation

Iraqi police, key participants in the struggle to provide badly needed security, have been specifically labeled "collaborators" by some opposition elements. Since last spring, scores of police have been killed in attacks on police stations and training facilities -- many by way of suicide bombings, some via full-scale paramilitary assaults.

Yet while nearly a third of Iraqis regard attacks on coalition forces as either somewhat (17%) or completely (13%) morally justified (see "Gallup Poll of Iraq: Liberated, Occupied, or in Limbo?" in Related Items), attitudes on the acceptability of targeting Iraqi police stand in sharp contrast. An overwhelming 92% of Iraqis see the attacks and bombings of Iraqi police as somewhat (11%) or completely (81%) unjustified, and only a tiny minority condone such attacks (2% feel they are somewhat justified, 1% think they are completely justified).

Even in the insurgency hotbeds of al Anbar and Salah ad Din, where 62% of respondents described attacks on coalition troops as "completely justified," there is harsh condemnation of the killing of Iraqi police -- 80% call the attacks completely unjustified, 11% call them somewhat unjustified.

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