February 6, 2007

Hope For Iraq?

A hint of optimism for Iraq (hey, we'll take whatever we can get.)

Mithal al-Alusi, the head of the Iraqi Nation Party, visits Washington and spends some time with Bret Stephens for a piece at OpinionJournal.

Mr. Alusi and his party stand for democracy, liberalism, secularism, antiterrorism and national unity. The question for Iraq is: Does anyone stand with Mr. Alusi? Spend an afternoon in his company and you might yet be persuaded that many Iraqis do, or at least might.

---

Between 2004 and 2006 the number of Iraqis who supported the idea of an Islamic state fell to 22% from 30%, while those agreeing that religion and politics ought to be separated rose to 41% from 27%, according to surveys conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. Even in Baghdad, site of so much of the sectarian killing, the number of respondents who put their Iraqi identity ahead of their Muslim one doubled to 60%. (By contrast, only 11% of Cairenes saw themselves as Egyptian first, Muslim second.) And 65% of Iraqis agreed that it was "very important" for Iraq to be a democracy, up from 59% two years before.

Mr. Alusi doesn't cite this data, but he points to anecdotal indicators that give him hope. One is the gradual shift in Arab attitudes toward terrorism. "Something basic has changed," he says, noting that the terrorism that once was directed against Israel and the West has lost its cachet on the Arab street now that Muslims have become its principal victims. Another is the fact that Iraqi soldiers--many of them Shiite--were willing to fight and die alongside American soldiers in recent fighting against Shiite militants. "So, the loyalty to Iraqi institutions did count and the partnership between the Iraqi and American armies did hold."

Posted by dan at February 6, 2007 10:35 PM