Arab Public Opinion

ARAB PUBLIC OPINION….Marc Lynch points us to the latest poll of Arab public opinion from Shibley Telhami, and for the most part not too much has changed since 2006. Support for Iran’s nuclear program is a bit higher than before (and suprisingly high in absolute terms given that this poll was limited to the Arab public); Hamas is twice as popular as Fatah; the U.S. continues to be viewed extremely unfavorably; al-Qaeda has lost popularity but still retains a fairly sizeable base of sympathy; China is more widely liked than we are; and al-Jazeera remains the most popular news channel by a mile.

But here’s an interesting chart. Asked what would happen if the U.S. “quickly” withdraws from Iraq, hardly anyone thinks the Iraqi civil war will expand. The percentage who think “Iraqis will find a way to bridge their differences” grew from 44% two years ago to 61% this year. What’s more, the most optimistic countries tended to be the ones closest to Iraq (Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia). Obviously the Arab public could be wrong about this, but this strikes me as a mostly pragmatic question, not the kind of thing driven either by dislike of the U.S. or weird conspiracy mongering. Given that, it’s perhaps telling that the opinions of ordinary Arabs who are close to the scene (and who would bear the brunt of a widened civil war if it happened) are so at odds with the nearly unanimous opinion of U.S. foreign policy opinion leaders.

The full report is here.