WASHINGTON: Egyptians and most Arabs have a very unfavorable opinion of US President George W. Bush, a new poll has revealed.
A new poll on Thursday underscored deep Arab unhappiness with the United States but said the negative image could be repaired if Washington brokered a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace agreement. The survey of 3,850 people in six Arab countries rated Bush as the most disliked world leader, while the United States and Israel were viewed as significantly greater threats than Iran. Sixty-seven percent of the respondents said the United States could improve its image by brokering a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement. A smaller number – 33 percent – said this image change could happen if Washington withdrew its troops from Iraq.
The results show the Arab-Israeli conflict remains the central prism through which people are evaluating the United States , even when the international focus is on the Iraq war and nuclear crisis with Iran, said Shibley Telhami of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Major powers recently backed a US push to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice planning to travel to the region next week. Based on face-to-face interviews conducted for the Saban Center by the Zogby International polling firm last November and December, attitudes were surveyed in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. Respondents were asked to identify which world leader outside of their own country they disliked most. Bush was named by 38 percent, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by 11 percent, current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by 7 percent and British Prime Minister Tony Blair by 3 percent.
The most admired leader was Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Islamic militant group in Lebanon, with 14 percent. French President Jacques Chirac followed with 8 percent, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with 4 percent and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with 3 percent. Hezbollah, Ahmadinejad and Chavez are all adversaries of the United States, while Chirac was at odds with Washington in the run-up to the Iraq war. Seventy-nine percent of the respondents cited Israel as their biggest threat, while the United States was named by 74 percent.
Iran, which Washington considers a major threat because of its nuclear ambitions, was named by only six percent of the Arabs surveyed. Although Bush and some U.S. politicians insist American troops cannot now be withdrawn from Iraq without leaving worse chaos behind, 44 percent of the Arabs polled said Iraqis will find a way to bridge their differences and 33 percent said a U.S. withdrawal would have no effect on the current situation. Only 24 percent of the respondents predicted an American withdrawal would cause the Iraqi civil war to expand rapidly.