Thinking Aloud: “Five Years After the Cairo Speech”: Palestine and Iran

June 10, 2014 by Darius 

[Last week, pollster James Zogby of the Arab-American Institute and Zogby International released a new poll: “Five Years After the Cairo Speech: How Arabs View President Obama and America.”  I attended the poll’s launch event; some of the findings were quite striking.  Sunday, I covered Arab views on the US and Syria; yesterday, I covered how Arabs feel about the US and Egypt.  Today, I’ll deal with Iran and Palestine.]

On the Palestine issue, a large majority in every country polled was “not confident” that the US has been even-handed in mediating the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.  Interestingly, Palestinians themselves had more confidence in the US as a mediator than any other country surveyed.  Moreover, a majority in every country similarly was not confident that the US was committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state comprising Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, but the Palestinians themselves were the least “not confident.”

In general, Arabs in the countries surveyed supported the effort of negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program – at least 50% of respondents in every country except Lebanon were supportive of negotiations.  In Lebanon, though, 86% of respondents were opposed to negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program, but it wasn’t clear if Lebanese respondents opposed negotiations specifically or any attempts to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

Support for negotiations didn’t mean that those polled felt negotiations would succeed, though.  A plurality or majority of those polled in every country except Egypt and the UAE were not confident that negotiations with Iran would succeed in limiting Iran’s nuclear program.  Likewise, those surveyed did not think any possible deal with Iran would reflect their country’s interests.  Only those polled in Egypt felt that Egypt’s interests would be served by a nuclear deal with Iran.

Feelings towards Iran overall weren’t favorable either.  Except for Lebanon (which has a large Shia population), a majority of respondents in every country surveyed disagreed with the statement that Iran “contributes to peace and stability in the Arab World.”  Likewise, a majority in every country except Lebanon (and Palestine, where opinions were split) disagreed with the policies of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

In short, Arabs felt that US-led negotiations on Palestine and with Iran might not succeed, but negotiations are still preferable to not.  Zogby noted that if the US public is tired of war in the Middle East, the Arab world is both war-weary and “wary of war.”

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