To make its case against Iran’s right as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop nuclear capabilities, the U.S. government has tried to claim that the people of the region, in U.S.-allied countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states, are concerned about Iran’s nuclear developments. Yet, there is never any mention whatsoever of these same people having concerns about Israel actually possessing nuclear weapons.
A recent poll taken in the Arab world by the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland with Zogby International found a clear majority of Arabs, 62% in total, were unconcerned about Iran developing nuclear technology. In fact, 44% as opposed to 29% said they would not mind if Iran were to possess nuclear weapons and thought that the outcome for the Middle East region would be more positive if they actually did. The highest majority of those polled who believed that Iran possessing nuclear weapons would be more positive for the region were from Saudi Arabia at 73%. So who exactly in the Arab world is so concerned about Iran developing nuclear capabilities if it is not a majority of the Arab people? Could it be the Arab leaders who have closely aligned themselves with the U.S. and through the U.S. to Israel?
In the very same poll, Arabs were asked to name TWO countries they think pose the biggest threat to them. The results were that 95% think that Israel poses the biggest threat to them, and 88% think that the U.S. poses the biggest threat to them.
Another interesting result of the poll was that the two main rival countries of the U.S. and Israel in the region, Iran and Syria, were correspondingly considered as the biggest threat by only 7% and 1% of Arabs.
The divisions and clashes between the people that have been unfolding in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories are primarily due to different leaders in these countries either lining up behind the U.S. and therefore its policies in the region, or behind the resistance to the U.S. and its policies in the region. And it has become clear that the leaders of resistance to the U.S. and its policies in the region are the most popular with a majority of the Arab people of all walks of life. Those leaders closely aligned with the U.S. are losers in the eyes of these people.
We cannot confuse real support with the popularity of leaders who possess the wealth to temporarily buy loyalty from some of the Arab people. Even a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein, or a terrorist group like Al Qaeda, who put together have killed large numbers of their fellow Arabs and Muslims in the last few decades, have managed to remain popular with some on the Arab street because they have been perceived as standing up to the U.S. The perception of U.S. policy there explains this.
Arabs know that the U.S. considers Israel its greatest ally and best friend in the region. President George Bush just repeated this at the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel in a speech at the Israeli Knesset. The Arab people understand that U.S. policy in the region evolves around the uncritical support of Israel. They believe for the most part that the U.S. has never been an honest broker for peace in the region. They know that the U.S. has vetoed numerous U.N. resolutions on behalf of Israel that were not in favor of Israeli actions taken against Palestinians or Israel’s Arab neighbors. And simultaneously, they know that the U.S. government has brought numerous resolutions to the U.N. on behalf of Israel, in the name of security for Israel, which at the same time have been detrimental to the security of the Palestinian and Arab people of the region. They know that the U.S. funds and militarily arms Israel, which has been to the disadvantage and to the oppression and harm of the Palestinians and many of Israel’s Arab neighbors. They know that Israel can occupy Arab lands and steal their resources for decades with little or no consequences from the U.S. government.
They know that a majority of U.S. government politicians pander to the Israeli lobby in order to get elected or re-elected. They understand that Israel is not a signatory of the NPT , yet it possesses nuclear capabilities and has a stockpile of nuclear weapons to the complete disregard of the Arab people’s security, while the U.S. looks the other way. And they know that the U.S. won’t allow signatories to the NPT in the region, such as Iran, the right to even develop nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes, and that they base this policy on the stated fear that nuclear weapons will be developed in order to be used against Israel.
The lesson which should be learned here is that the U.S. policy of uncritical support of Israel is not winning the hearts and minds of the Arab people of the region, and is in effect undermining U.S. interests in the Middle East region by lining up the Arab street behind the resistance.