Arabs see Iran among top three threats to US interests: poll

Iran occupied third place, with 9 percent highlighting Tehran as America’s greatest threat, followed by cybercrime and radical Islamic extremism. (AFP)
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Updated 27 October 2020

Arabs see Iran among top three threats to US interests: poll

  • Arab News/YouGov pan-Arab survey data capture the Middle East’s perceptions of US interests
  • Findings suggest Arab publics have a finger on US political pulse despite their low expectations

NEW YORK: In just a couple of weeks, Americans will cast their ballots against a backdrop of civil unrest, racial tensions, political polarization and an economy crumbling under the stress of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak.
In the run-up to the Nov. 3 presidential election, the Arab News/YouGov survey asked what the Arab world thinks are the greatest threats facing the US. Given the turbulence, it is difficult perhaps to settle on which of these challenges is the most pertinent.
However, for 32 percent of the respondents, white nationalism topped the list. China came in second place, with 22 percent of Arab respondents identifying the world’s second biggest economy as among the biggest threats facing the US today.

Iran occupied third place, with 9 percent highlighting Tehran as America’s greatest threat, followed by cybercrime, radical Islamic extremism, climate change and finally intrusive federal government as America’s chief woes.
“The survey results reflect the way Americans themselves view these threats,” said Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Washington DC-based Arab Center, a think tank focusing on US foreign policy in the Middle East.




Extreme, right-wing groups were seen as the biggest threat to the US; respondents had great concerns about the malign influence of Iran.  (AFP)

“It shows that the Arab population is better informed about different issues here in the US.”
Arab respondents do seem to have their finger on the US political pulse.
Just recently, 13 members of an armed white militia were charged with plotting to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, and to overthrow the state government.
It also follows months of growing concern at the apparent spread of “alt-right” views, clashes between Black Lives Matter protesters and white supremacists, and Donald Trump’s failure to denounce the far-right Proud Boys during the first presidential television debate with his rival Joe Biden.

“The threat of racist, extreme, right-wing groups is the number one threat in terms of terrorism committed on American soil,” Jahshan said. “It has replaced a threat that was for a while, after 9/11, perceived as coming from radical Islamic sources.”
Although the US president has had Iran in his crosshairs, it is hardly surprising that the Arab public see China as America’s greater foe. Over the course of his presidency, Trump’s anti-Chinese rhetoric has swung from that of a mere trade war to implying Beijing deliberately unleashed the “Chinese virus” (COVID-19) to weaken the US economy.


READ: The methodology behind the Arab News/YouGov Pan-Arab Survey


“That didn’t play well in Peking (Beijing). And, of course, that relationship has fallen into disarray,” said Jahshan.
Despite their concerns about Iran’s malign influence in their own Middle East neighborhood, only 9 percent of the Arab News/YouGov pan-Arab poll respondents felt Tehran posed more of a threat to Washington than China.
“That low number reflects the gap between Arab and American public opinion (on the question of the Iranian threat). The typical Arab is not convinced that the US is on his side when it comes to Iran,” Jahshan said. “That is the general sentiment, particularly in the Gulf, a category that tends to view Iran as the principal enemy, with the US as a main ally.”

Beyond geopolitics, Arab respondents appear to have read the mood well on climate change, reflecting the view that Trump has rolled back much of the recent progress on environmental protection. “The fact that 5 percent of Arab females and 9 percent of Arab males see that issue as a vital threat to the US is correct,” Jahshan said. “I only wish the numbers were higher.”
As a longtime Middle East observer who has dealt with several Arab governments over the past four decades, Jahshan says that he is pleased to see Arab public opinion being taken into consideration for the first time.
“It is encouraging and instructive to see these surveys. I hope that will make Arab public opinion become a factor in foreign policy, be it here in the US or in the Arab countries,” he said.

Twitter: @EphremKossaify

 


Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

Updated 36 min 41 sec ago

Zarif ‘desperate’ to blame Saudi Arabia for anything negative that happens in Iran: Al-Jubeir

  • “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assasinations; unlike Iran” minister tweeted

JEDDAH: Iran’s parliament on Tuesday approved a bill requiring the government to boost uranium enrichment by 20 percent and end UN inspections of its nuclear facilities.

The move is being viewed by analysts as a show of defiance after the recent killing of prominent Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassination for which Tehran has accused other countries of masterminding.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was “desperate” to blame the Kingdom for anything negative that happened in Iran.

“Will he blame us for the next earthquake or flood?” he tweeted. “It is not the policy of Saudi Arabia to engage in assassinations; unlike Iran, which has done so since the Khomeini Revolution in 1979.

“Ask us and ask many other countries who have lost many of their citizens due to Iran’s criminal and illegal behavior,” Al-Jubeir added.

The latest bill would require another parliamentary vote to pass, as well as approval by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog. Moreover, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all nuclear policies.

“There is no doubt that this step constitutes a threat, raising it to 20 percent means that it is close to building a nuclear bomb,” political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “The region is promised with a dark and unstable period.”

He said that the move indicated the Iranian regime’s insistence on destabilizing the region, and its determination to win the race to obtain nuclear weapons.

Enriching uranium to 20 percent is below the threshold needed for nuclear weapons but higher than that required for civilian applications. It would also commission new centrifuges at nuclear facilities at Natanz and the underground Fordo site.

“Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons or its proximity to achieving that goal will be a great danger to the region, and countries will seek to protect themselves, which will mean that everyone will resort to obtaining nuclear weapons. Fakhrizadeh’s death suggests that Iran was waiting for this opportunity to escalate,” Al-Shehri added.

The official IRNA news agency said 251 lawmakers in the 290-seat chamber voted in favor, after which many began chanting slogans against the US and Israel.

The bill would give European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal three months to ease sanctions on Iran’s key oil and gas sector, and to restore its access to the international banking system.

“Many technical issues related to the nuclear bomb creation were not closely followed up by P5+1 (the UN Security Council’s permanent members of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, plus Germany),” said Al-Shehri.

“We also should not forget that Iran was not clear and was preventing and limiting inspections at its nuclear facilities, moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency did not do its work properly so that the world could breathe easily.

“Iran may have the nuclear bomb by now without the international community taking any action against it.

“The assassination of a scientist will not change the equation, even the strikes on Iranian facilities would not affect the real Iranian infrastructure.

“Iran wasn’t confronted the way that would make the world comfortable, nor the way that a terrorist rogue state should have been treated as it distributed terrorism through its militias, ballistic missiles, and drones in the region,” he added.