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Poll: Americans Optimistic About Iraq

Americans are more optimistic about the situation in Iraq than they have been since 2003, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds, with 63 percent saying that things are going well for the United States in the country.

Less than two years ago, just 22 percent said things were going well.

The improved perceptions do not mean Americans want U.S. troops to stay in Iraq, however: Seventy-eight percent believe it is important that troops leave the country within President Obama's timeline of 16 months, with 46 percent saying it is very important they do so.

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Following Mr. Obama's lead, Americans are increasingly turning their attention to Afghanistan. Thirty-five percent say Afghanistan is the foreign policy area President Obama and Congress should focus on most - nearly the same percentage as say Iraq should be the top priority.

And support for higher troop levels in Afghanistan is increasing. Forty-two percent say troop levels should be increased, up from 34 percent in January. President Obama has called for higher troop levels in Afghanistan and announced last week that an additional 17,000 troops would be deployed in the country.

The president has indicated that his administration is reviewing the Bush-era policy of forbidding the public from seeing images of soldiers' caskets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. There is wide support for reversing the policy, with 69 percent saying the public should be allowed to see the caskets.

While Sen. Patrick Leahy and some other members of Congress have called for an investigation of the Bush administration, most Americans do not favor such an effort. Only 37 percent say Congress should hold hearings into whether or not crimes were committed by the Justice Department while Mr. Bush was in office, while 58 percent say hearings are not necessary.

President Obama has not embraced the idea of hearings, saying he is "more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards."

Americans are suspicious of the motives of Democratic members of Congress who want to investigate the administration, with 68 percent say they want to do so for political reasons. Twenty-seven percent say Democrats are seeking hearings because laws were broken.

There is little support for immediate military intervention in Iran. Just 13 percent say the U.S. should undertake military action now, while 58 percent say the situation in Iran can be contained through diplomacy. An additional 19 percent say Iran is not a threat at this time.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,112 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone February 18-22 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from RDD samples of both standard land-lines and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.