A new poll released on Tuesday morning shows that while Americans want to help Iraq in its struggle against the militants that have taken over numerous cities and villages in the last week, there’s little support for reinserting ground troops into the situation.
It’s in that context that the poll, released on Tuesday from Public Policy Polling (PPP), surveyed 790 registered voters over the weekend. The result: many more Americans prefer the policies of President Obama in this instance, over the suggestions of neoconservatives like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). “In order to deal with the crisis in Iraq, do you support or oppose sending combat troops to Iraq?” the poll asked, with 74 percent opposing the idea and only 16 percent supporting. While the poll was commissioned by a group against intervention, Americans United for Change, the question’s sentiment easily crossed party lines, with 57 percent of Republicans telling PPP that they’re against sending in combat troops.
One week ago, fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) — also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — captured the second-largest city in Iraq, Mosul, the first in a wave that has pushed them ever closer to the capital, Baghdad, over the last several days. There has been limited success from Kurdish fighters, Shiite militias, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps working with the Iraqi army to push back, but so far there has been little territory recaptured. The results come as the world watches with increased concern about just how close to Baghdad the Sunni-led ISIS is pushing. With swathes of territory now stretching from their strongholds in Syria into Iraq, and possibly more than $1 billion in financing, ISIS is proving more of a challenge than many had expected them to be.
McCain, along with other Republicans in Congress and conservative pundits, have been hammering Obama for days over the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq at the end of 2011. Even on Tuesday, the major cable networks have been turning heavily to the same people who engineered the war in the first place to make that same point. But PPP appears to have completely ruled out the idea that their argument is carrying weight. In their first question in the survey, they laid out Obama and McCain’s stances side-by-side:
President Obama has announced that he will not send U.S. troops to Iraq under any circumstances. Senator John McCain has argued that the United States should have left troops in Iraq rather than withdraw them from Iraq as we did in 2011. Would you say you agree more with President Obama or Senator McCain about whether the U.S. should have troops in Iraq?
As it turns out, those polled agreed with Obama by a margin of 54 percent to 28. Again, the sentiment was bipartisan in nature: only 30 percent of Republicans agreed with the McCain’s position, while just short of a majority — 49 percent — sided with the president. Most of those surveyed, however, did support providing both intelligence to the Iraqi government and launching a diplomatic push to have the international community help stabilize Iraq.
Importantly, only 20 percent of those surveyed agreed with the idea that the current situation in Iraq is the fault of the U.S. removing its troops in 2011. Instead, 67 percent of them agreed more with the statement “the renewed fighting in Iraq results from a dysfunctional Iraqi government, and is rooted in centuries of sectarian conflict that intensified enormously because of the invasion of Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction, that proved to be nonexistent.”
President Obama has yet to announce precisely what the U.S. will do in response to ISIS’ assault, but on Monday evening he informed Congress he is sending up to 275 U.S. forces to Baghdad to help protect the American Embassy. Launching air strikes against ISIS’ supply lines before they consolidate in Iraq’s cities, upping military aid to Iraq, and even working more closely with Iran are all on the table as potential actions the U.S. could take, though none will be likely to be effective on their own. Obama met with his national security team on Monday night to discuss options, but given the results of PPP’s poll, it’s likely Obama will stick with his pledge last Friday that no troops will be deployed in Iraq.