Michael Butler michael at michaelbutler.com
Wed Sep 8 15:26:52 PDT 2004



Report on Iraq Finds Its People Hang On to Dwindling Hopes

An American think tank suggests infusions of funds and lesser role for
resented U.S. troops.
 By Tyler Marshall
 Times Staff Writer

 September 8, 2004

 WASHINGTON ‹ A report on Iraq being released today by a prominent think
tank here concludes that Iraqis remain guardedly optimistic about their
future despite continuing violence, but warns that they could lose hope
without faster progress toward stability and economic growth.

 The document, by the Center for Strategic and International Studies,
recommends accelerated spending on reconstruction, funneling more aid
through local governments directly to Iraqis, and backing the return of the
United Nations and other international groups to prepare for January's
national elections. The U.N. appointed a new envoy to Iraq, but most of the
mission's staff is based outside the country for security reasons.

 The report also calls for increasing the visibility of Iraqi units in
security operations when possible, saying Iraqis have lost faith in U.S. and
other international military forces struggling to impose order.

 "With the possible exception of the Kurds, Iraqis generally dislike the
continued presence of the U.S.-led military forces in their country,"
concludes a summary of the independent think tank's report, "Progress or
Peril? Measuring Iraq's Reconstruction."

 In many ways, the conclusions echo other independent assessments that have
followed the hand-over of power from an American-led occupation authority to
an interim Iraqi government. For example, some experts argued several months
ago that more U.S. troops were needed to restore order in the country. Many
of those now say they believe additional U.S. troops might add to the unrest
rather than help quell it.

 However, the extensive nature of the data involved in the CSIS study,
gathered over a 13-month period from 16 different polls, about 400 private
interviews, and nearly 80 public, official and media sources, gives it
additional significance.

 Iraqis "still retain a sense of optimism but are very frustrated that
reconstruction isn't happening faster," said Bathsheba Crocker, co-director
of the CSIS Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project and co-author of the

 Last week, a senior Bush administration official estimated that less than
$1 billion of the $18.4 billion approved in November by Congress for
rebuilding Iraq had been spent.

 Crocker predicted that the public support enjoyed by the fragile new Iraqi
government institutions, including the security forces, could dissipate in a
matter of months if they did not begin to deliver results. A loss of faith
in those American-designed organizations could force Iraqis to place their
loyalties elsewhere, possibly among insurgent groups or tribal or
ethnic-based factions, she said.

 In other issues, the report finds growing worry among Kurds about the
accountability of their own political parties, along with a wariness about
the ability of party leaders to protect Kurdish interests within a new
national Iraqi government. Of all Iraq's ethnic groups, the Kurds are widely
cited as having the most stable political leaderships.

 The report also presents evidence that initial progress in education from
an intense school reconstruction program in the months after the end of
major combat has been undercut by rising student dropout rates as children
seek work to help contribute to sputtering family incomes.

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 Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

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