By Jim Lobe
"U.S. and Israeli hopes of forging of a Sunni Arab alliance to contain Iran and its regional allies may be misplaced, at least at the popular level, according to a major survey of six Arab countries released here Thursday.
The face-to-face survey of a total of 3,850 respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates found that close to 80 percent of Arabs consider Israel and the United States the two biggest external threats to their security. Only six percent cited Iran.
And less than one in four Arabs believe Iran should be pressured to halt its nuclear program, while 61 percent, including majorities in all six countries, said Tehran had the right to pursue it even if, as most believe, the program is designed to develop nuclear weapons......
But Telhami, who will present his findings at a major Brookings-sponsored conference of Islamic leaders in Doha next week, told IPS he doubts these sectarian tensions are changing basic attitudes among the general public on key regional issues in the countries covered in the survey, with the exception of Lebanon.
"The public of the Arab world is not looking at the important issues through the Sunni-Shi'ite divide," he said. "They see them rather through the lens of Israeli-Palestinian issues and anger with U.S. policy (in the region). Most Sunni Arabs take the side of the Shi'ites on the important issues."....
More than three out of four of all respondents described their attitudes towards Washington as either "somewhat" (21 percent) or "very" (57 percent) unfavorable. Negative feelings were strongest in the three monarchies: Jordan, where 90 percent of respondents described their views as unfavorable., Morocco (87 percent), and Saudi Arabia (82 percent).....
As in the past several years, large majorities of Arabs attribute less benign objectives to U.S. policy in the region, including "controlling oil" (75 percent, "protecting Israel"; 69 percent "weakening the Muslim World"; and 68 percent, "the desire to dominate the region." Only nine percent of the weighted aggregates they believed one of Washington's main objectives was promoting democracy.
Majorities, ranging from 51 percent in Lebanon to 68 percent in Jordan and 77 percent in Morocco, believe Iran has the right to pursue its nuclear program
"Even in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, whose governments are really frightened about Iranian power, their publics do not define Iran as the major threat," noted Telhami, who added that tended to confirm that Arab leaders and their citizenries do not see key issues through the same prism."