Financial Times (London,England)
August 4, 2003, Monday London Edition 1
SECTION: EUROPE & MIDDLE EAST; Pg. 5
LENGTH: 467 words
HEADLINE: Iraqis sceptical over US explanation for continuing attacks on
BYLINE: By CHARLES CLOVER
Fewer then a third of Iraqis believe the armed attacks against coalition
forces in their country are attributable to former Ba'ath party operatives
turned guerrilla, as US officials suggest, a public opinion survey suggests.
The study reveals scepticism among Iraqis at the US-led coalition's version
of the postwar violence, which US General John Abizaid likened to a
"classical guerrilla campaign" in remarks last month.
"We're fighting Ba'athist remnants throughout the country. I believe there's
mid-level Ba'athist, Iraqi intelligence people, Special Security
Organisation people, Special Republican Guard people that have organised at
the regional level in cellular structure," he said on July 16.
US officials have yet to produce much public evidence but many Iraqis
believe the guerrillas are a new phenomenon, fuelled by nationalism,
Islamism, and revenge.
According to the survey, by the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic
Studies (ICRSS), an independent think-tank in Baghdad, 22 per cent of Iraqis
believe the attacks are actually provoked by coalition forces' behaviour,
while 25 per cent believe them to be the work of "resistance forces" - a
word which in Arabic implies a degree of sympathy for the attackers.
The data are particularly interesting if concentrated on the cities of
Ramadi and Falluja, where many of the recent attacks have happened. There,
fewer than 5 per cent of those surveyed saw former regime sympathisers
behind the attacks, 36 per cent said the attacks were provoked by US forces,
and 52 per cent named "resistance" as chief cause.
If the impressions of those surveyed are true, the postwar violence faced by
the coalition in Iraq is a more complicated phenomenon than US official
analysis would suggest.
According to most public opinion research conducted thus far in Iraq, most
Iraqis do not want coalition forces to leave, and there is broad support for
the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime.
But some behaviour by coalition troops and failure to restore services in
much of postwar Iraq have eroded public support for the US-led military
"Iraqis can't live with the coalition forces or without them just yet," is
one of the conclusions of a study of focus group interviews by the US
National Democratic Institute published last month, which found "no support
for current attacks" but that the behaviour of occupation troops sometimes
had a negative effect on opinion.
The ICRSS results varied from region to region, with predominantly Shia and
Kurdish areas tending to support the argument that former regime figures
were responsible for the violence, more so than in Sunni areas.
Overall, 2,400 Iraqis in seven cities across Iraq were surveyed by ICRSS.
Full results of the survey are to be released on Wednesday.
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