- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2005

LONDON — A secret poll commissioned by the British Defense Ministry shows that nearly half of Iraqis support attacks against coalition troops and fewer than 1 percent think that the coalition is helping to improve security in their country.

The survey, obtained by the London Sunday Telegraph, was conducted by an Iraqi university research team in August. For security reasons, the researchers were not told that coalition forces would use the compiled data. The poll says:

• Forty-five percent of Iraqis think attacks against British and American troops are justified — rising to 65 percent in British-controlled Maysan province.

• Eighty-two percent are “strongly opposed” to the presence of coalition troops.

• Fewer than 1 percent think coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security.

• Sixty-seven percent feel less secure because of the coalition military presence.

• Forty-three percent think conditions for peace and stability have worsened.

• Seventy-two percent do not have confidence in the multinational forces.

The findings differ markedly from a survey carried out by the British Broadcasting Corp. in March 2004, in which the overwhelming consensus among the 2,500 Iraqis questioned was that life was good and more of them supported rather than opposed the war.

The Sunday Telegraph published the results one day after the resignation of the British commanding officer in the Basra region was made public.

Lt. Col. Nick Henderson resigned from the British army after voicing concerns over a lack of armored vehicles for his men.

The secret poll appears to contradict claims made by Gen. Mike Jackson, chief of the general staff, who only days ago congratulated British soldiers for “supporting the Iraqi people in building a new and better Iraq.”

Andrew Robathan, a member of Parliament for the opposition Conservative Party who specializes in defense issues, said the poll reflects the complete failure of government policy.

“This clearly states that the government’s hearts-and-minds policy has been disastrous. The coalition is now part of the problem and not the solution.

“I am not advocating a pullout, but if British soldiers are putting their lives on the line for a cause, which is not supported by the Iraqi people, then we have to ask the question, ‘What are we doing there?’”

Under the heading “Justification for Violent Attacks,” the poll shows that 65 percent of people in Maysan province — one of the four provinces under British control — think that attacks against coalition forces are justified. In Basra, the proportion falls to 25 percent.

The report based on the poll also profiles those likely to carry out attacks against British and American troops as being “less than 26 years of age, more likely to want a job, more likely to have been looking for work in the last four weeks and less likely to have enough money even for their basic needs.”

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