Evidently, not just centrist and conservative Americans are leery of Obama Why Iraqis Back McCain June 17, 2008; Page A21 However it turns out for John McCain this fall -- and so far he's running his general election campaign the way Gen. Ricardo Sanchez ran counterinsurgency ops -- the Arizona Republican is sure to carry at least one battleground state by a landslide. That state is called Iraq. Last week, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey of more than 24,000 people in 24 countries. Result: From Japan to Tanzania to Germany to Russia, the world has "more confidence" in Barack Obama than in his Republican rival to "do the right thing regarding world affairs." But Pew did not poll Iraqis, whose opinions about the choice America makes should weigh at least as heavily with us as the collective wisdom of, say, Brazil. Whom would they prefer as the next U.S. president? Associated Press Constraints of time and money being what they are, I have not gotten round to phoning 1,000 Iraqis to get their views on Obama-McCain. But I did sit down last week with four key provincial Iraqi leaders, Sunnis and Shiites, who -- without actually endorsing Mr. McCain -- made their views abundantly clear. "The Iraqis are really fearful about some of the positions the Democratic Party has adopted," says Sheik Ahmed Abu Rishah. "If the Democrats win, they will be withdrawing their forces in a very rapid manner." Mamoun Sami Rashid al-Awani, the governor of Anbar province, agrees. "We have over a million casualties, thousands of houses destroyed," he says. "Are we going to tell [Iraqis] that the game is over? That the Americans are pulling out?" Messrs. Abu Rishah and Awani, both Sunni, have possibly the toughest political jobs on the planet. Sheik Abu Rishah inherited the leadership of the Iraq Awakening movement when his brother was killed by al Qaeda last September. Gov. Awani's immediate predecessor was kidnapped and killed by insurgents, and he has survived more than a score of assassination attempts. Today, the governor speaks with a mixture of confidence and foreboding. He insists al Qaeda has been vanquished. But, he adds, "Iraq is in a strategic location and has huge resources. There are a lot of eyes on Iraq." Later in the conversation, he makes his point more precisely. "Liberating Iraq is a very good dish. And now you are going to hand it over to Iran?" A sense of incredulity hangs over the way Iraqis see the U.S. political debate taking shape. The governor tells a moving story about their visit to Walter Reed hospital, where they were surprised to find smiles on the faces of GIs who had lost limbs. "The smile is because they feel they have accomplished something for the American people." But the Iraqis came away with a different impression in Chicago, where they had hoped to meet with Mr. Obama but ended up talking to a staff aide. "We noticed there was a concentration on the negatives," the governor recalls. "The Democrat kept saying that Americans have committed a lot of mistakes. Yes, that's true, but why don't you concentrate on what the Americans have achieved in Iraq?" The Iraqis are even more incredulous about Mr. Obama's willingness to negotiate with Iran, which they see as a predatory regime. "Do you Americans forget what the Iranians did to your embassy?" asks the governor. "Don't you know that Ahmadinejad was one of [the hostage takers]?" Here Hussein Ali al-Shalan, a Shiite from Diwaniyah in southern Iraq, offers a view. "For a long time, Iran has felt like Iraq is theirs. Our fear [about U.S. negotiations with Iran] is, you will be giving them something that we believe would prolong our agony. We are not against Iran. We have to coexist and work toward our mutual interests. The question is, is this possible at this stage? That's why we need the army to give a final push so the Iraqis can feel the fruits of our democracy." It's not just Iran. "There is no other country that supports us," says Gov. Awani. "What is happening in Iraq scares everyone," by which he means the neighboring autocracies that have something to fear from a successful democratic model in their midst. That only makes America's ambivalence toward its democratic creation that much stranger to the Iraqis. Will the next administration abandon both its principles and its friends in the region? For what? The administration and the Iraqi government are now wrangling over a status-of-forces agreement -- evidence that Iraq has reached a point where it can once again act like a sovereign nation. But the Iraqis leave no doubt that they want a deal, not least "so Iraq would be able to protect U.S. interests in the region," as Sheik Abu Rishah puts it. Having lost 4,100 Americans for Iraq, the Iraqis are offering to return the sacrifice -- assuming only that the alliance endures. Throughout our interview, the men did not stop fingering their prayer beads, as if their future hinges on their ability to make their case to the American public. They're right: It does. Which is why Iraq, all but alone among the nations, will be praying for a McCain victory on the first Tuesday in November.