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Middle East policy infuse deep mistrust of US

July 1, 2012

Sunday, December 11. 2005

People in Arab nations believe the Iraq war has brought less peace, more terrorism and contrary to Washington’s claims, will result in less democracy, according to a poll published Friday.

The survey of six Arab countries, also found a plurality of respondents got their news from the Al-Jazeera satellite television network, currently at the center of a storm over an alleged US idea to bomb its headquarters.

When asked which country was the biggest threat to them, most respondents chose Israel or the United States, while France was nominated as the country most respondents would like to be a superpower.

The University of Maryland/Zogby International poll published Friday was conducted in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in October.

Eighty-one percent of respondents said the Iraq war had brought “less peace” to the Middle East, while only six percent believed it had enhanced peace.

Seventy-eight percent of people questioned believed the Iraq war had resulted in more terrorism than before, while 58 percent said it brought less democracy, with only nine percent believing it enhanced democratic development.

While the administration of President George W. Bush frequently argues that it has liberated Iraqis from Saddam Hussein, only six percent of those surveyed believed that the Iraqi people were better off after the war. Seventy-seven percent thought they were worse off.

“In addition to the Arab-Israeli issue, which has been the prism of how Arabs have looked at the US, there is an added new prism, and that is Iraq,” said Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland.

“They think the Iraq war has brought nothing but disaster.”

Only six percent thought spreading democracy was an objective in the war in Iraq, while seventy-six percent thought control of oil fields was important, and 68 percent believed support for Israel was key motivating factor.

“The American presence itself is something they fear … the perception of threat is there, because it does mean that in general people are rooting against the US in Iraq,” said Telhami.

The survey makes unwelcome reading for US diplomats, who have repeatedly tried to improve US standing in the Middle East. Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes confronted some of the hostility during a regional swing in September.

“In as much as there are misperceptions or misunderstandings about US policy, whether it be in the Middle East or elsewhere around the globe, we have made it a priority to expand our public diplomacy efforts,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

He declined to comment directly on polling data, but argued the US drive to promote democracy in the region would not reap instant results.

“This is also going to be a generational project; it’s going to take a long time,” McCormack said.

The poll also asked, in a world with one superpower, which nation respondents would like to fulfill that role.

Twenty-one percent said France, 13 percent said China and 10 percent said Pakistan. Only six percent voted for the United States, which came in just behind Britain, at seven percent.

French President Jacques Chirac, emerged as the most popular leader. Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they watch Al Jazeera most for international news, followed by 11 percent for Dubai-based MBC.

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