Today's Zaman

Posted by Today's Zaman on March 06, 2013 in News Clips
A survey has revealed that Turkish people are increasingly discontent with Iran and the number of Turks with a negative attitude toward Iran has significantly increased over the past few years.

According to a Zogby Research Center poll published on Tuesday, Iran, viewed positively by a sizable majority of Turks in a 2006 survey, has experienced a decline in its favorable ratings. This change appears to be largely due to concerns with Iran's policies in Iraq, Syria and the Arab Gulf region.

Back in 2006, of the nine countries covered in that year's survey, only Turkey had a majority of respondents who suspected that Iran had ambitions of producing a nuclear weapon and Egyptians were evenly divided on the question. In the 2012 survey, there has been a significant turnabout, with strong majorities in all of those nine countries now believing that Iran has ambitions to produce such a weapon. A full 87 percent of Turks surveyed think that Iran's nuclear ambitions are not peaceful and that its ultimate goal is to acquire a nuclear bomb.

In 2006, only 27 percent of Turks supported military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities authorized by international consensus. In 2012, this number rose to 51 percent.

In the 2012 survey, 90 percent of Turkish Shias surveyed had a favorable view toward Iran while 88 percent of Sunnis had an unfavorable view toward the country.

The poll, titled “Looking at How 20 Arab and Muslim Nations View Iran and Its Policies,” surveyed 20,051 citizens from 20 countries including Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan.

The survey covered a range of topics, including attitudes toward Iran, its people, culture and nuclear program.

Zogby said in the 2006 poll, Iran's favorable ratings in Arab and Muslim countries were at their highest point in the six-year span of the surveys. In that year, in most countries Iran's favorable ratings were in the 75 percent range (with Saudis giving Iran an 85 percent positive rating). Iran's favorable ratings in these same countries fell to less than 25 percent (the Saudi numbers have plummeted to 15 percent) last year.

The poll said one important factor contributing to Iran's diminished regional standing has been the rise of Turkey. The survey pointed to Turkey's deteriorating relationship with Israel as an important factor that has pushed Turkey's popularity up in the region. Tracking Zogby's Arab polling from 2006 to 2011, it is clear that Iran's decline in popularity was matched by Turkey's rise. However, with its strong stand against Syria's government and regime ally Iran in the wake of the Syrian uprising, Turkey's support among the Shia populations in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia declined in 2012, dragging down its overall favorable ratings in these countries. The 2012 favorable numbers given to Turkey continue to be appreciably higher than those given to Iran in 14 of the 20 countries surveyed.

In 2006, of the nine countries covered in that survey (the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey), only in Turkey did a majority believe that Iran had “ambitions to produce nuclear weapons.” Most of the rest expressed the belief that Iran was “pursuing its nuclear program for peaceful purposes only.” Back in 2006, when these countries were asked what the international community should do about Iran's nuclear program, the answers were almost universally “no” to economic sanctions while only a slight majority of Turks agreed to sanctions. Only in Turkey and Indonesia did most respondents say the international community should “do something” if Iran persists with its nuclear program.

Today, only Shias in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey say the Middle East would be more secure if Iran had a nuclear weapon. Eighty-two percent of Turks believe that the Middle East would be more secure if it were a nuclear-free zone. A similar number of Turkish respondents, 80 percent, agree that the Arab Gulf states are right to be concerned with Iran's nuclear program because this program makes the region less secure.

The survey also revealed that a worrisome sectarian divide has opened up between Sunni and Shia Muslims in several countries, most notably in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan. In the 2012 survey, an overall majority of respondents point to Iranian policies as the cause.

Asked whether the culture of their country is equal, superior or inferior to Iran's culture, only in Bahrain, Yemen and Turkey do the two sects disagree -- with Sunni Muslims saying that their own country is superior, while their Shia compatriots claim that the two are equal or consider Iran's culture superior to their own. When asked which culture is more violent between Iran and their own, majorities of Arabs -- both Sunni and Shia -- in most of the countries surveyed point to Iran.

Less than a quarter of respondents in Pakistan (24 percent), Turkey (22 percent) and Azerbaijan (20 percent) view Iran favorably. There is a significant split on Iran between Sunni and Shia respondents in Turkey, with 88 percent of Sunnis unfavorable versus 92 percent of Shias favorable.

Less than three in 10 respondents in Turkey (29 percent) identify more with the Iranian government than the “Green Movement” in Iran. Iran's impact on the world is viewed as negative by wide margins in all questionsby respondents in Turkey. Respondents in Turkey are only somewhat divided with respect to sect on these questions.

A full 90 percent of Turks disagree with the statement that Iran is a role model for their country while only 16 percent agree that Iran is working to promote peace and stability in the region. A total of 88 percent of Turkish respondents agree that Iran is pursuing its own agenda to serve its interests while those who believe that Iranian policy is contributing to sectarian division in the Arab world total 78 percent. While only 15 percent of Turks believe that Iran, the US and Russia contribute to peace and stability in the Arab world, a strong majority of Turks believe the opposite with respect to Saudi Arabia (72 percent).

A majority in Turkey (63 percent) say that the Iranian Revolution in 1979 made the region less stable. Shia respondents in Turkey (31 percent), however, feel that the region is more stable because of the revolution.

In Turkey, a majority disagrees with the statement that Iranians are “good, religious people” (75 percent), “hard-working” (72 percent) and “people just like me” (78 percent). Sunni respondents in Turkey are extremely negative on these questions, while Shia respondents are far more favorable in their views of Iranians. There is near unanimity among respondents in Turkey (95 percent) that the country's relations with Iran are negative. No one in Turkey believes that relations with Iran are positive and 74 percent of Turks disagree that Ankara's relations with Iran should be closer. Only 18 percent of Turks think that Iranians have made a positive contribution to Islam.

Most respondents in Turkey (80 percent) share the concerns of Arab Gulf states about Iran's nuclear program; however, a majority of Shia respondents in Turkey (58 percent) do not share this concern. At least two-thirds of respondents in Turkey (77 percent) are not comfortable with Iran as the dominant Gulf power. A majority of Shias (54 percent) are comfortable with a dominant Iran in the Gulf region. Among Turks, 87 percent believe that Iran has ambitions to build nuclear weapons. Most respondents in Turkey (68 percent) are supportive of economic sanctions if Iran persists with its nuclear program. Views are divided by sect with the Shia communities strongly opposing sanctions (87 percent). Opinion is split in Turkey (49 percent supporting versus 46 percent opposed) regarding military action if Iran "continues to resist." A majority of Sunni respondents in Turkey (56 percent) support a military response to "continued Iranian resistance."

Many still favor Turkey as model

Majorities in all the Gulf countries except Bahrain see Saudi Arabia and Turkey as positively impacting peace and stability in the region.

Respondents in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine feel that Saudi Arabia and Turkey make positive contributions to peace and stability. Egypt (87 percent), Algeria (74 percent), Sudan (71 percent) and Tunisia (70 percent) feel Turkey makes a positive contribution, while Moroccans are split and Libyans disagree.

A majority in Saudi Arabia (57 percent), Lebanon (73 percent), Iraq (63 percent), Jordan (60 percent), Pakistan (79 percent) and Palestine (70 percent) consider Turkey a good model to follow. Majorities in all North African countries consider Turkey a good model, including 72 percent of Sudanese, 67 percent of Moroccans and 63 percent of Tunisians.

Majorities of respondents in Yemen (76 percent), Saudi Arabia (71 percent), Oman (66 percent), Kuwait (63 percent) and the UAE (58 percent) view Turkey favorably.Sunni respondents are more likely to have favorable attitudes regarding Turkey than Shia respondents in Saudi Arabia (83 percent versus 5 percent), the UAE (63 percent versus 10 percent) and Bahrain (58 percent versus 38 percent).

Turkey is seen favorably by strong majorities in Jordan (68 percent) and Palestine (83 percent), while slim majorities in Lebanon (50 percent, more than those expressing the opposite) and Iraq (55 percent) have unfavorable attitudes regarding Turkey. In North Africa, opinion is more mixed with respect to Turkey. While respondents in Egypt (89 percent), Algeria (80 percent), Tunisia (78 percent) and Sudan (64 percent) have generally favorable attitudes regarding Turkey, just 48 percent of Moroccan respondents and 34 percent of Libyan respondents concur.

Non-Arab countries mostly have favorable attitudes toward Turkey, with Azerbaijan at 82 percent, Pakistan at 79 percent and Turkey itself at 98 percent.

Just 33 percent of respondents in Turkey hold favorable attitudes regarding the US and only 14 percent of Turks hold favorable attitudes toward the UK. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey are viewed positively by very strong majorities in Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan.

Respondents in Turkey strongly reject any other country as a model for their development and progress.

In all 20 countries surveyed, strong majorities -- unanimous in some cases -- are concerned that sectarian division is growing across the region. There is very high level of concern about this in Turkey (83 percent).

In Turkey, the survey was conducted in the cities of İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Bursa, Adana, Gaziantep, Konya, Antalya, Diyarbakır, Mersin, Kayseri, Hayman and Ceyhan with 1,019 adults.  

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