It’s easy to figure out from even a cursory perusal of Iran’s media organs that Tehran wants desperately to project love with the Arab/Muslim world. According to Zogby, these efforts haven’t exactly attained the goal:
“Iran’s nuclear program was once strongly supported throughout the region by the general public, though not necessarily by their governments. Now it is a subject of concern in most countries. Just six years ago, most Arabs and Muslims were willing to defend Iran against international pressure, now they want the international community to do something to rein in Iran’s ambitions. Sanctions against Iran, once strongly opposed, are now supported by a majority of Arabs and Muslims in most countries. While there is an uptick in support for military action against Iran, should it persist in its nuclear program, majorities in almost all countries remain opposed to this option.”
Zogby also has a word of advice for the regime:
“Iran should recognize its current regional isolation and the precariousness of its position and not overplay its hand. In the past, their defiant behavior might have won support from an appreciative regional audience. Now it is seen as threatening and unsettling provocation.”
The finding’s importance lies, of course, in the fact that a leading pollster has brought them out into the open. And while there’s nothing too surprising there (except perhaps the uptick in support for military action) – the media in the Arab/Muslim world is full of updates on Iranian subversion – recent media reports in the west reinforce Zoby’s conclusions.
Take Iraq, for instance. This LA Times analysis, apparently meant to sharpen criticism against the 2003 incursion, also serves to shed light on how Tehran violates neighbors’ sovereignty with impunity. This picture is bolstered by current events in the Syria context such as this one.
Zogby’s distinction between the governments and people is especially interesting in the case of Egypt. Since the fall of Mubarak a question mark persists regarding Cairo’s policy vis-à-vis Tehran, particularly as to how Morsi’s criticism of Iran’s support for Assad would influence bilateral relations. On this point the media presents a mixed picture: on the one hand, momentum seems to be in the direction of thawing relations; on the other hand, it’s far from certain that the people want this. Either way, Iran still cannot resist overplaying its hand by challenging Egyptian sovereignty.
Not satisfied with meddling in the Muslim Middle East, Iran has branched out to other regions such as the former Soviet Union – where it is also having difficulty restraining its urge to violate sovereignty and even seize control.
Bravo to Zogby for bringing this important subject into the open.