Commentary

Middle East Perceptions of the Roles Played by Global and Regional Powers

James J. Zogby

The tumult that has rocked the Arab World, has contributed to dramatic changes in the Arab public's attitudes toward important global and regional powers. This is one of the findings of a recent Zogby Research Services (ZRS) poll of over 7,000 adults in six Arab countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Iraq), Turkey, and Iran. The wide-ranging study, prepared for the annual Sir Bani Yas Forum, covered a number of topics asking respondents to identify: obstacles to stability and sources of the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen; the causes of extremism; and how best to deal with the threat of extremism. While all warrant examination, the shake up in the region's positive and negative perceptions of the roles played by global and local powers is both fascinating and consequential.    

In face to face interviews, conducted in late September-early October, ZRS found that Saudi Arabia is in an exceptionally strong position in the Arab World, while favorable attitudes toward Iran and Turkey continue to decline. These ratings and the mixed reviews given to the US and Russia define the turn-about that has occurred in recent years.

In 2006, just one decade ago, the attention of most Arabs was focused on the continuing US war in Iraq and the US support for Israel's destructive assault on Lebanon and its occupation policies in the West Bank and Gaza. In that context, not surprisingly, attitudes toward the US were at their lowest point. With then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad leading a war of words not only against the US and Israel, but also the weak Arab response to both, favorable attitudes toward Iran were on the rise region-wide reaching over 70% in most Arab countries—including over 85% in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

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