To leave or not to leave?

Dr. Steven Kull, Director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, gave testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight on July 30:

How is it that on one hand Iraqis think the presence of US troops makes the security situation worse and they should leave within a year, and on the other hand that it would be very nice if they were to train Iraqi forces and help with the security situation vis-a-vis al Qaeda?

Here is my interpretation. There are two frames through which Iraqis view US-led forces in their country. One frame–the weaker frame–is that security in Iraq is still fragile and that the US may be able to offer some aid to Iraq.

The other and more dominant frame is that the United States has effectively occupied Iraq. As early as 2004 Gallup asked Iraqis whether they primarily thought of coalition forces as liberators or occupiers. Seventy-one percent said occupiers.

In a variety of ways Iraqis signal that they do not feel that they have genuine sovereignty. In our September 2006 poll 77 percent said that they assumed that the US plans to have permanent bases in Iraq. More importantly, 78 percent said they thought that if the Iraqi government were to tell the US to withdraw its forces, the US would refuse to do so.