Poll shows U.S. stand­ing sinks in Mid­dle East­ern na­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Eric Pfeif­fer

At­ti­tudes about the United States have de­te­ri­o­rated sharply in the Mid­dle East in the past two years, a sur­vey of five coun­tries in the re­gion shows.

U.S. pol­icy, such as sup­port for Is­rael, has long been crit­i­cized in the Mid­dle East, but a ma­jor­ity of those polled now hold neg­a­tive views of the Amer­i­can peo­ple as well.

“What th­ese num­bers say to me is that peo­ple are dra­mat­i­cally af­fected by our poli­cies,” said James Zogby, pres­i­dent of the Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tute, for whom the sur­vey was con­ducted. “Our peo­ple and our prod­ucts are at risk in the re­gion.”

The sur­vey was con­ducted in Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt, Morocco, Jor­dan and Le­banon. With­out ex­cep­tion, a strong ma­jor­ity ex­pressed un­fa­vor­able opin­ions of the United States. The low­est level was in Jor­dan, where only 5 per­cent said they had a fa­vor­able view of the United States in gen­eral. In 2002, Jor­da­nian fa­vor­a­bil­ity of the U.S. was the sec­ond high­est in the re­gion, at 34 per­cent.

Sur­vey re­spon­dents tend to dis­tin­guish be­tween U.S. pol­icy and the Amer­i­can peo­ple, but that dis­tinc­tion ap­pears to have eroded in the past four years. Mr. Zogby said he first no­ticed a dis­tinct shift in 2004. In the 2006 sur­vey, only a plu­ral­ity of Le­banese polled ex­pressed a fa­vor­able view of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, with 44 per­cent ap­prov­ing and 18 per­cent ex­press­ing un­fa­vor­able views.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple are viewed least fa­vor­ably in Saudi Ara­bia, where 18 per­cent said they had a fa­vor­able opin­ion and 34 per­cent ex­pressed an un­fa­vor­able opin­ion. At the same time, 50 per- cent of Saudis say they like Amer­i­can prod­ucts, com­pared with 24 per­cent who do not.

“Our pol­icy [In Iraq] drags ev­ery­thing,” Mr. Zogby said. “The neg­a­tives have be­come very pro­nounced.”

Mid­dle East­ern poll re­spon­dents cited the Iraq war and per­ceived U.S. sup­port for Is­rael over the Pales­tini­ans as their big­gest con­cerns. “One is the im­me­di­ate wound while the other is the defin­ing wound,” Mr. Zogby said.

The Iraq Study Group, which re­cently sub­mit­ted a list of 79 pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions to Pres­i­dent Bush, says the Is­raeli-Arab con­flict is tied di­rectly to the es­ca­lat­ing vi­o­lence in Iraq. The group has rec­om­mended that the White House em­pha­size a broader Mid­dle East peace process as part of its ef­fort to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion in Iraq.

“You can ac­com­plish good things in Iraq but you need re­gional sup­port,” Mr. Zogby said. “They would be wise to look at what the com­mis­sion has pro­posed.”

The one as­pect of U.S. so­ci­ety to re­ceive a net pos­i­tive rat­ing from all five Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries was the Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Getty Images

An Egyp­tian man burned a U.S. flag dur­ing a pro-Pales­tinian demon­stra­tion in the main square in down­town Cairo. Arabs’ opin­ions of the United States and its peo­ple have de­te­ri­o­rated sharply in the past two years.

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