Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Latest from Iran (19 May): Bad Numbers for Ahmadinejad and Regime's "Islamic Awakening"

0630 GMT: We begin with a 21-nation survey by the Pew Research Center of attitudes around Iran. Pew's headline is "A Global 'No' To a Nuclear-Armed Iran", but we are more interested in the political dimensions of the outcome.

The survey offers bad news for the regime's projection of an "Islamic Awakening" following the path of Iran's 1979 revolution and the next 33 years:

Iran is...unpopular in many predominantly Muslim nations who are its neighbors. Roughly six-in-ten Lebanese (61%) give the Islamic Republic a negative rating, although views are sharply divided among the country’s major religious communities. About nine-in-ten Lebanese Shia Muslims (91%) hold a positive view of Iran, compared with just 5% of Sunni Muslims and 32% of Christians.

In Turkey, where diplomatic tensions with Iran have increased over the last year, 55% of the people have an unfavorable opinion about Iran, while only 26% express a favorable view. 

Jordanians (79% unfavorable) and Egyptians (76%) give Iran especially poor marks. Moreover, ratings for Iran have declined precipitously since 2006, when 59% of Egyptians and 49% of Jordanians expressed a positive view.

There is also a generation gap on this question in some countries in the region. Young people in Tunisia, ages 18-29, are 16 percentage points more likely to have an unfavorable view of Iran than are people 50 years of age and older. In Turkey the generation gap is 14 points, while in Lebanon it is ten points.

The return for President Ahmadinejad is similar, except in two locations:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad receives largely negative reviews in most of the predominantly Muslim nations surveyed. However, Pakistan is again a major exception. About half of Pakistanis (47%) express a favorable opinion of Ahmadinejad, while just 6% give him an unfavorable rating (47% do not offer an opinion). Also, a plurality of Tunisians (42%) hold a positive view of the Iranian leader.

Once more, Lebanese opinions are split along religious lines, with nearly all Shia (95%) expressing a favorable view of Ahmadinejad and nearly all Sunnis (92%) offering a negative rating. Nearly six-in-ten Christians (57%) also see him in a negative light.

About half of Turks (48%) and large majorities of Jordanians (83%) and Egyptians (73%) have an unfavorable view of the Iranian president.

One immediate lesson from the numbers: the Islamic Republic's strategy for influence has looked to Egypt as a focal point, with the ousting of the Mubarak regime and the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood as a leading political force offering opportunities for Tehran.

We had a far different view from early 2011, arguing that any Egyptian faction, including the Brotherhood, would be looking to local concerns rather than Iranian guidance for its policies. The highly unfavourable view of the Iranian regime in Pew's numbers is powerful support for that analysis.

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

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