New Poll: Egyptians Turning Toward Iran, Want Nuclear Weapons

http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com

A poll of Egyptians conducted last month shows that they have increasingly positive views of Iran, believe that both Iran and Egypt should obtain nuclear weapons, and still trust their own military more than any other institution in Egypt. 

The poll of 812 Egyptians, half of them women, was conducted in a series of in-person interviews by the firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and sponsored by the Israel Project, a pro-Israel advocacy organization with offices in Washington and Jerusalem. 

According to the poll, Iran is viewed favorably in Egypt, with 65 percent of those surveyed expressing support of the decision to renew Egypt-Iran relations and 61 percent expressing support of the Iranian nuclear project, versus 41 percent in August 2009. 

Sixty-two percent of those polled agreed that “Iran and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are friends of Egypt,” though 68 percent held unfavorable views of Shiite Muslims. 

Iran’s deputy defense minister said recently that the Iranian regime is seeking more military cooperation with Egypt. “We are ready to help Egypt to build nuclear reactors and satellites,” he said on the occasion or Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy’s meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month. Morsy’s office has said the two didn’t discuss military cooperation. 

Eighty-seven percent of respondents want Egypt to have its own nuclear bomb. 

Israel Project CEO Josh Block told The Cable that the statistics show the effect of Morsy’s outreach to Iran and the danger of regional proliferation of nuclear weapons if Iran is successful in obtaining a nuclear bomb. 

“Very scary to people opposed to proliferation of nuclear weapons, let alone to unstable countries in the world’s most turbulent part of the world, is the 87 percent who want Egypt to build nuclear weapons,” he said. 

“Morsy’s dangerous embrace of Iran is leading a surprising shift in favor support for Tehran, which has for decades been seen by Egyptians as their top threat, as well as for their work on nuclear weapons.” 

Egyptians are overwhelmingly focused on the dire state of their domestic economy. Only 2 percent of those polled said that “strengthening relations with other Muslim countries” should be one of Morsy’s top two priorities, and 45 percent agreed with the statement that “Egypt needs to focus on things at home and should be less involved in regional politics.” 

Nevertheless, 74 percent of those polled said that disapprove of Egypt having diplomatic relations with Israel — an increase from 26 percent in August 2009 — and support for a two-state solution to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at only 30 percent. Seventy-seven percent agreed that “The peace treaty with Israel is no longer useful and should be dissolved.” 

Block blamed that result at least partially on the stance of leading Egyptian politicians like President Morsy, who has indicated recently he does not plan to abrogate the Israel-Egypt peace treaty but whose Muslim Brotherhood party identifies Israel as a racist and expansionist state. 

“The fact that Morsy and other leading politicians in Egypt regularly express disdain for the peace treaty leads to such decay in public attitudes,” Block said. “Then again, nearly half the public voted for a presidential candidate who openly declared his intent to travel to Israel and support for the Camp David accords.” 

Block was referring to retired Air Force general Ahmed Shafiq, who served as prime minister under Hosni Mubarak and was defeated narrowly in a runoff election earlier this year. 

The poll found that 64 percent of Egyptians still feel warmly about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ran Egypt in the interim period before Morsy was elected, and 81 percent approve of the job they are doing. Forty-nine percent of Egyptians polled felt warmly about Morsi, and 43 percent felt warmly about the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Forty percent felt warmly about the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, but only 11 percent felt warmly about the Salafist Nour Party, a hard-line Islamist party that fared well in the parliamentary elections. 

American politicians fared poorly in the poll, but among them Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the most popular at 25 percent favorability. President Barack Obama scored 16 percent and Republican nominee Mitt Romney only 8 percent, although only half of Egyptians polled knew who Romney was. (Ahmadinejad’s favorability rating? Forty-three percent.) 

Most Egyptians don’t seem to buy Romney’s line that Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus,” but they’re not too happy about his handling of the region, either. 

Asked, “Do you think that President Barack Obama is more on the side of Arabs or more on the side of Israel?,” 68 percent of Egyptians said Israel, and 60 percent said that Obama’s presidency had been “a negative thing” for the Arab world

39% of the Egyptians polled expressed interest in learning more about Israel, especially it’s political system. The Israel Project runs an outreach program to the Arab world, focusing on social media. Its Facebook page is called “Israel Uncensored.” 

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