A shift in Arab views of Iran

President Obama may have scored a diplomatic win by securing international support for biting sanctions against Iran, but Arab public opinion is moving in a different direction. Polling conducted last month by Zogby and the University of Maryland in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates suggests that views in the region are shifting toward a positive perception of Iran’s nuclear program.

These views present problems for Washington, which has counted on Arabs seeing Iran as a threat — maybe even a bigger one than Israel. So why is Arab public opinion toward Iran shifting?

According to our polling, a majority of Arabs do not believe Iran’s claim that it is merely pursuing a peaceful nuclear program. But an overwhelming majority believe that Iran has the right to develop nuclear weapons and should not be pressured by the international community to curtail its program. Even more telling, a majority of those polled this year say that if Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, the outcome would be positive for the Middle East. In 2009, only 29% of respondents viewed that as a positive.


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