Most Mideast countries don’t want a nuclear Iran, poll finds

Respondents in new survey, which polled 17 Arab and 3 regional Muslim countries, believe Gulf states should be worried over Iran’s nuclear ambitions

A 2010 file photo of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. (AP/Vahid Salemi)
A 2010 file photo of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian popularity is low in Arab and Muslim states, and most respondents to a regional poll published Tuesday said a nuclear-armed Iran would harm Middle East security.

Most residents of the 20 countries surveyed agree that the Middle East would be more secure if it were a nuclear free zone.

The poll, conducted by Washington, DC-based Zogby Research Service for the Arab American Institute, surveyed the opinions of residents of 20 Arab and Muslim countries. It found that more than three-quarters of respondents in Bahrain (78%), UAE (80%), Oman (80%), Saudi Arabia (89%), Qatar (92%), and Kuwait (97 percent)  agreed that “the Middle East would be more secure if it were a nuclear free zone.”

Most respondents in Azerbaijan (86%), Pakistan (85%), and Turkey (82%) said the Middle East is more secure without nuclear weapons. Pakistan and Turkey’s Shiite minorities, however, disagree with the majority’s sentiment vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program.

The only countries in which respondents said the Middle East would be more secure if Iran had a nuclear weapon were Yemen and Libya — and Shiite minorities in Saudi Arabia (61%), Yemen (76%), and Turkey (62%) hold the same view.

Two-thirds of Lebanon’s Shiite population, which is led by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia, said the Middle East would be more secure with a nuclear Iran.

At least two-thirds of respondents in Gulf countries, with some approaching unanimity — Kuwait (98%) and Saudi Arabia (97%) — agree that the Arab states should be concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions “because this program makes the region less secure.”

Almost all the countries polled agree that the Persian Gulf states are right to be concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. Only Lebanese and Iraqi respondents disagreed.

The poll also analyzed respondents’ attitudes toward Iran and other countries.

Public perception of the United States in some of the Muslim countries was found to be very poor. Only 33% of respondents in Turkey and 27% of respondents in Azerbaijan hold favorable attitudes regarding the United States — and not even one respondent in Pakistan views the United States favorably, while 94% of them hold unfavorable attitudes regarding the country.

The survey polled male and females above the age of 15 in rural and urban centers in the following countries: 17 Arab countries (Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, ‘Palestine’, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia) and three non-Arab countries (Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan). The research did not include its margin of error, or the number of respondents, in its publication of the data.

The Zogby poll was published the same day that the US Army commander in the Middle East told Congress that sanctions were not preventing Iran’s nuclear progress, adding that he had prepared a military operation.

General James Mattis said a simple “no” when when asked whether “the current diplomatic and economic efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capability” were working.

“I think we have to continue sanctions, but have other options ready,” said Mattis, of the Central Command, to the Armed Services Committee during an official hearing. Mattis said Iran could be convinced to alter its course by “a purely cost-benefit ratio,” but at the moment, he noted, the “nuclear industry continues” apace regardless of sanctions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has roused the international community’s attention to Iran’s nuclear program, claiming that the purpose of the Islamic Republic’s illicit program is to attain a nuclear bomb — which Israel has said it will work to prevent, alluding to a possibly military strike.

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