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Impeach Bush

Iraqis do not trust U.S.-led forces
Reuters (UK)
By Gideon Long
Mon 1 December, 2003 15:56

LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly 80 percent of Iraqis have little or no trust in U.S.-led occupying forces and most place their faith in religious leaders instead, according to a major survey published in Britain.

Nearly half regard the removal of former president Saddam Hussein as the best thing to have happened in the last 12 months while a third said the war, bombings and defeat of the Iraqi army in April was the worst.

"Interestingly, there appears no obvious link between best and worst thing," the authors of the survey said on Monday. "The very troops which liberated Iraqis from Saddam are the most mistrusted institution in Iraq today."

The survey, published by independent British research consultancy Oxford Research International (ORI), samples the views of 3,244 Iraqis, interviewed in their own homes in October and early November.

It offers a rare glimpse for Westerners into the mindset of ordinary Iraqis and is shot through with ironies and contradictions.

For example, while 70 percent of those surveyed said they had confidence in religious leaders, the same number regarded ideas, morality, and "religious guidance" as the responsibility of individuals, not government.

"This challenges the assumption that Iraqis want a religious regime," the authors said, adding that less than one percent wanted to see an Islamic government installed in Iraq during the next 12 months.

While 90 percent of respondents wanted a democratic government, 71 percent favoured "a strong Iraqi leader." Only 12 percent opted for "a government made up mainly of religious leaders".

Two thirds of Iraqis regard "regaining public security" as the country's top priority and few seemed concerned with vendettas against the old regime -- 91 percent said dealing with members of the previous government was "of no priority at all".

The section on "trust in organisations" will make edifying reading for U.S. and British forces, grappling to bring peace to the country seven months after the war.

When asked to rate their confidence in 11 organisations -- including Iraq's governing council, the new Iraqi army, the police and the United Nations -- the U.S.-led coalition was the least trusted.

Some 57 percent of those questioned said they had no trust in the U.S.-led coalition and a further 22 percent said they had very little trust. Only eight percent said they had a great deal of confidence in the occupying force.

In contrast, 42 percent of Iraqis said they had a great deal of trust in Iraq's religious leaders and another 28 percent had "quite a lot" of trust. Only 11 percent had none at all.