Poll shows Iran has lost Arab support

Source: Jumana Al Tamimi

Wednesday August 03, 2011

Dubai: After a few years of supporting Iran for its defiant stance towards Washington, Arab peoples have today a different position amid their "spring": they are less supportive of Tehran and they consider the US irrelevant.

A recently released poll by the Arab-American Institute (AAI) in six Arab countries showed a "significant" decrease in Iran's favourable ratings since 2006 and 2008, explained James Zogby, founder and president of AAI.

That time, the Arab public opinion was supportive of Iran's nuclear programme and looked at it as "active defiance to the West", he noted.

However, many things have changed in the past nearly two years.

The American rhetoric towards Iran has tempered and is not as "bellicose" as before, Zogby told Gulf News in an interview.

"I think also the Arab Spring has changed the psychology of the region. The region is now looking at a different direction. They are looking inwards and not looking who is defying the US the most. The US has become almost irrelevant in this period."

Today, Arab people now come to see Iran's behaviour "in its own light, so their interference in Iraq, or in Bahrain, or in Kuwait or in Lebanon, all those things have become more of a nuisance and a threat than as a challenge to the West," Zogby added.

Iran has been accused of interfering in Iraq's affairs since the collapse of the former regime of Saddam Hussain in 2003. In the past months, several Arab countries accused Tehran of interfering in their internal affairs and subjecting their internal security to danger. Kuwait announced the uncovering of a spy ring, and Bahrain complained of Iran fuelling the unrest in the Kingdom earlier this year.

The Iranian government, which has crushed its own protests to the 2009 presidential elections, has expressed its support to the Arab protests sweeping many Arab countries calling for more freedoms and better living conditions.

No support

However, the Arab peoples have expressed different views. "As if the people are saying [to Iran] keep out of our background. You are making a difficult situation worse," Zogby noted.

The AAI poll, which included 4,000 Arabs, has showed a "strong regional support for the GCC's new and more assertive role protecting their regional interest,".

The poll has covered Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and the UAE.

As an example of the dwindling support to Iran, the percentage of Moroccans who have positive views toward Iran has dropped from 82 per cent in 2006 to 14 in 2011, and in Egypt from 89 per cent to 37. While Saudis recorded the lowest percentage of positive views towards Iran with 6 per cent, Lebanon recorded the highest percentage among the six surveyed countries with 63.

"None [of the Arabs] believe that the region would be safer if Iran became a nuclear power," was among the main conclusion of the AAI poll, which was conducted during the first three weeks of June 2011 by Zogby international.

Turkey favoured

When asked if they had to choose one nation other than Israel to be a nuclear power in the Middle East, Egypt comes in the first place followed by Turkey, which received the highest favourable ratings in most Arab countries due to its positions visa-a-vie the Arab-Israeli conflict, which Arabs praised as pro-Arab. The US received the lowest rating in every country surveyed.

"I think it is seeing Egypt playing its historic role as a leader of the Arab world," replied Zogby to a question on explaining choosing Egypt.

While previously, many Arab leaders have expressed their concerns for Iran's nuclear programme and Arabs expressed their support to it, the two sides today seem closer to each other, Zogby believed.

"There was a time where people suggested that Arab leaders have one policy and Arab people were some place else, and the leaders didn't have the support of their people, this poll tells us that they do," he said in reference to the general Arab view towards Iran.

Read the original article by Gulf News.