A new poll shows that the percentage of the Arab world that thinks a nuclear-armed Iran would be good for the Middle East has doubled since last year and now makes up the majority.
The 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll found that 57 percent of respondents not only believe that Iran’s nuclear program aims to build a bomb but also view that goal positively — nearly double the 29 percent who thought so in 2009. The percentage of those who view an Iranian nuclear bomb negatively fell by more than half, from 46 percent to 21 percent.
But the Arab Public Opinion Poll’s findings on Iran stand in marked contrast to the stances of most Sunni Arab leaders, who fear the regional implications of an Iranian bomb.
“In my view, the Arab public position on Iran is largely a defiance vote or an ‘enemy of my enemy’ vote,” Mr. Telhami told the Washington Times.
Last month, The Times reported on unusually blunt remarks from the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the U.S., who said he favored airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear sites by U.S. or Israeli forces despite the consequences for the region.
“If you are asking me, ‘Am I willing to live with [the fallout from military action] versus living with a nuclear Iran,’ my answer is still the same: ‘We cannot live with a nuclear Iran,’“ Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba said during a conference in Aspen, Colo.
A day earlier, the Times of London reported that Saudi Arabia had given Israel tacit approval to use its airspace in the event of an aerial attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Officials from the kingdom vehemently denied the report, but most observers suspect that some Arab leaders would quietly cheer an Israeli attack, even if it generated riots in their capitals.
Iran repeatedly has denied that its nuclear program is devoted to anything but producing energy.
“There is no love for Iran in most of the Arab world,” Mr. Telhami said. “They fear Israel and U.S. foreign policy, so when we ask them, ‘Name the two countries that are most threatening to you personally,’ they identify first and foremost Israel and second the United States, and Iran is down on the list.