Via Taegan Goddard comes the news of a new poll conducted by ABC/BBC/NHK, with the current, on-the-ground opinions of Iraqis. Goddard pulls the juicy center:
A new ABC News/BBC/NHK Poll in Iraq shows that 84% of Iraqis "now rate security in their own area positively, nearly double its August 2007 level. Seventy-eight percent say their protection from crime is good, more than double its low. Three-quarters say they can go where they want safely triple what it's been."
"Few credit the United States, still widely unpopular given the post-invasion violence, and eight in 10 favor its withdrawal on schedule by 2011 -- or sooner. But at the same time a new high, 64 percent of Iraqis, now call democracy their preferred form of government."
In general, positive movement. But more specifically, this is recent movement. People feel safer, in terms of personal security, but they also feel more secure in the political future of their country. Significantly, those polled stop short of crediting the United States with any of this, and there's overwhelming support for withdrawal.
New highs and recent shifts beg the question, "What's new, pussycat?" Well, what's new, of course, is that the United States and Iraq have become bound to a Status of Forces Agreement, with a specific timetable for withdrawal. Additionally, we're a couple weeks shy of Defense Secretary Gates taking the matter public, and rather forthrightly stating two things: 1) the SoFA has total buy-in at the Pentagon, and 2) any change to the timetable will be up to the Iraqis. Let's stroll Memory Lane, shall we?
Robert Gates, conference call, February 27, 2009:
The defense secretary was asked if he supported keeping troops in Iraq beyond 2011, when the Status of Forces Agreement that President Obama pledged today to support mandates a full U.S. withdrawal. Gates said such a move would require a revision of the SOFA, a move that, if it happened, would "almost certainly" come from an Iraqi request, not U.S. initiative, and the "Iraqis have not said anything" about such a revision.
"It's hypothetical, because no such request has been made, and there's no indication it will be at this point," he said, cautioning that his "own view" would be to "be prepared to have a very modest presence for training, help with equipment and providing perhaps intelligence support beyond" 2011. But the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement are "what we are operating under now."
Anyway, I look at it like this: NO WONDER Iraqis are feeling safer, more secure in their future, more amenable to the possibilities of being led by their own sovereign government. They've finally obtained what was long needed -- a timetable for withdrawal and a measure of autonomy.
For a long while, Iraq war critics have been greeted by interviewers with a dumb question: "Surely now you have to admit that the Surge worked?"
New question then: Surely everyone has to admit that setting a timetable for withdrawal worked! Because that's the word on the streets in Iraq.
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