Good News about Public Opinion in the Persian Gulf

A leading expert on public opinion in the Arab world, David Pollock has recently supervised a vast survey of citizens of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The results are both encouraging and surprising:

The first crucial finding is simply that people are willing to speak their minds, even on controversial matters, at least in private.

[Most] unexpected is the finding that the mid-May armed conflict between Israel and Hamas has had little effect on attitudes toward either party. In a previous poll, taken in November 2020, around 40 percent in each country backed the Abraham Accords with Israel, with almost as many also accepting “business or sports contacts with Israelis.” Those numbers hardly budged at all in this latest poll, taken just a few weeks after the Gaza hostilities ended.

More specifically, when asked to pick their top two priorities for U.S. policy in their region, respondents are about evenly divided among the four options offered. Only around a quarter pick “pushing for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict” as their top option, while approximately equal percentages opt for other objectives: containing Iran, ending the wars in Yemen and Libya, or—more surprisingly—“promoting human rights and democracy.”

Regarding the even more sensitive internal issues of political Islam, the data show a similarly moderate trend over time. The past seven years show a slow but steady uptick in the percentages agreeing with this assertion: “We should listen to those among us who want to interpret Islam in a more moderate, modern, and tolerant way.” In ascending order, the numbers today stand as follows: the UAE, 33 percent; Saudi Arabia, 39 percent; and Bahrain, a whopping 51 percent.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Arab World, Israel-Arab relations, Moderate Islam, Persian Gulf

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security