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Poll: Arab states back tougher Iran sanctions

BERLIN (JTA) — Several Arab countries strongly favor tougher sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions, a new poll shows.

Respondents in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon were among the most supportive of such sanctions, according to the ninth annual Pew Global Attitudes Project released Thursday in Berlin and Washington. Most countries favored a tough stance on Iran, with only Pakistan and India disagreeing.

The survey of 25,000 individuals in 22 countries was completed in May, and was co-sponsored by the German-based Bertelsmann Foundation.

Survey questions covered such topics as views of the United States; President Obama and his foreign policy; attitudes toward Iran, China and European nations; and views on terrorism and environmental issues.

Israel, which was included in a larger survey last year, was not included for budgetary reasons, according to U.S.-based journalist Bruce Stokes, a consultant for the study.

On Iran, Obama received mixed reviews. In Lebanon, Christians and Sunni Muslims tended to approve of the U.S. president’s policies, at 62 percent and 61 percent, respectively, while 98 percent of Shia Muslims disapproved. At 62 percent, Pakistanis were the most disapproving of further sanctions against Iran, while Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon were among those strongly favoring tougher sanctions.

Turkey was the only Islamic country in which those opposing military intervention to stop Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons slightly outnumbered those who favored it, 37 percent to 29 percent.

Overall, Obama received poor grades for his handling of the Mideast conflict, with only France, Nigeria and Kenya showing a majority approving of his policies.

Obama is "amazingly passive on the Israel-Palestinian problem and I am not sure why," former U.S. Ambassador to Germany John Kornblum said at Thursday’s news conference in Berlin releasing the data. 

In the United States, 41 percent said they disapproved of Obama’s handling of the Middle East. The highest disapproval came from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon — 88 percent, 84 percent and 90 percent, respectively.

According to the report, "Clear majorities in Turkey (66 percent) and Indonesia (56 percent) also disapprove" of his Mideast policies. Opposition to Obama’s anti-terrorism efforts also has grown in Muslim countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

Stokes told JTA that there was no way to deduce whether critics found Obama too tough on Israel or not tough enough.

"For the purposes of the question it was just how is he doing, and he seems to be doing less well on that issue than on other issues," Stokes said.

Overall, Obama still enjoys far higher popularity ratings abroad than at home, the study showed. However, his popularity in Muslim countries, except for Indonesia, where Obama lived for a few years as a child, has dropped dramatically over the past year. In Egypt the percentage of Muslims expressing confidence in Obama fell from 41 percent to 31 percent, and in Turkey from 33 percent to 23 percent. 

 

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