A new report by an international monitoring group says many Iraqis would support the forced ouster of Saddam Hussein but that they have given little thought as to what might happen after the Iraqi leader is toppled.
A new report released Wednesday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, or ICG, paints a picture of an Iraqi populace troubled by the present but only vaguely concerned about the future.
The report, entitled "Voices from the Iraqi Street," was compiled from interviews conducted with dozens of Iraqis in September and October in the cities of Baghdad, Mosul, and Najaf. The researchers say they found people willing to talk with surprising candor about the prospects of war and peace in their country.
With a possible war looming on the horizon, the International Crisis Group researchers say attitudes towards a possible U.S.-led strike in Iraq are complex. On the one hand, there is some concern about possible violence and anarchy that might accompany a forced change of regime in Baghdad. On the other, the report says, there is a deep feeling of frustration about the status quo. It says a significant number of those interviewed longed for modernization and economic prosperity, and expressed support for a U-S led attack if it would bring about a return to normalcy.
But the report also warns that such support is predicated on the strike being quick and clean, and that it is followed up by considerable international reconstruction assistance. Rob Malley, the ICG's director of Middle East programs, says that support may well dissipate the war prove to be protracted or if assistance is insufficient. "If the war were bloody and prolonged, or if there were not a massive reconstruction effort afterwards, Iraqis then would not be measuring an invasion against their present condition, but against their future expectations," says Mr. Malley. "Those expectations would not be met, and I think one would find it very likely a high level of discontent on the part of the Iraqis and possible turning against the people who they say today they will be welcoming."
But the ICG report describes attitudes about a post-Saddam Iraq as "extremely vague and inarticulate." The researchers say the long repression of Iraqi society has led to what they describe as a largely depoliticized and apathetic population.
Mr. Malley says that Iraqis told them they just want a normal life and are generally unconcerned about the political future of their country with one exception. "Other questions are secondary questions, with one exception, which we did find, which is an almost generalized distaste for the opposition, in particular for the exiled opposition, which many Iraqis we spoke to basically said would not be much different from those in power now, that they would just be trying to get the spoils of the next regime," he says. "So that was the one point about the future that they're pretty certain about: they don't want to be ruled by the exiled opposition."
The opposition Iraqi exile groups are touted by many in the international community as the basis for some kind of future political setup in Iraq once Saddam Hussein is gone.