[Marxism] More evidence of crumbling US position

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at rogers.com
Thu May 20 04:18:42 MDT 2004

(From today’s Financial Times)

Iraq's rebel cleric gains surge in popularity
By Roula Khalaf in Baghdad

An Iraqi poll to be released next week shows a surge in the popularity of
Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical young Shia cleric fighting coalition forces,
and suggests nearly nine out of 10 Iraqis see US troops as occupiers and not
liberators or peacekeepers.

The poll was conducted by the one-year-old Iraq Center for Research and
Strategic Studies, which is considered reliable enough for the US-led
Coalition Provisional Authority to have submitted questions to be included
in the study.

Although the results of any poll in Iraq's traumatised society should be
taken with caution, the survey highlights the difficulties facing the US
authorities in Baghdad as they confront Mr Sadr, who launched an insurgency
against the US-led occupation last month.

Conducted before the Abu Ghraib prisoners' scandal, it also suggests a
severe erosion of American credibility even before Iraqis were confronted
with images of torture at the hands of US soldiers.

Saadoun Duleimi, head of the centre, said more than half of a representative
sample - comprising 1,600 Shia, Sunni Arabs and Kurds polled in all Iraq's
main regions - wanted coalition troops to leave Iraq. This compares with
about 20 per cent in an October survey. Some 88 per cent of respondents said
they now regarded coalition forces in Iraq as occupiers.

"Iraqis always contrast American actions with American promises and there's
now a wide gap in credibility," said Mr Duleimi, who belongs to one of the
country's big Sunni tribes. "In this climate, fighting has given Moqtada
credibility because he's the only Iraqi man who stood up against the
occupation forces."

The US authorities in Baghdad face an uphill battle to persuade Iraqis that
the transfer of sovereignty on June 30 will mark the end of the US
occupation. The removal of US troops was cited in the poll as a more urgent
issue than the country's formal status.

Respondents saw Mr Sadr as Iraq's second most influential figure after Grand
Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most senior Shia cleric. Some 32 per
cent of respondents said they strongly supported Mr Sadr and another 36 per
cent somewhat supported him.

Ibrahim Jaafari, head of the Shia Islamist Daawa party and a member of the
governing council, came next on the list of influential Iraqis. Among
council members, Adnan Pachachi, the Sunni former foreign minister, came
some distance behind Mr Jaafari. Mr Pachachi is regarded as the apparent
favourite for the ceremonial post of president when a caretaker government
takes over.

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