Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Poll: Arab Opinion Strongly Negative on Islamic State

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Poll: Arab Opinion Strongly Negative on Islamic State

Article excerpt

The Arab public has an overwhelmingly negative view of the Islamic State and a clear majority of Arabs support the goal of the US-led coalition to "degrade and destroy" the extremist Islamist group - even though the same public sees the US and Israel as the biggest beneficiaries of the anti-IS fight.

Those are among the key findings of a poll carried out in seven Arab countries and among Syrian refugees, which the survey's organizers say is the first serious attempt to gauge Arab opinion concerning IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

"We keep hearing there is fertile ground in Arab society for ISIL [but] there is no love lost for ISIL," says Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center of Washington, which conducted the poll, released today, with its parent organization, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies in Doha, Qatar.

While more than 8 in 10 participants in the poll said they have a negative view of IS, that overwhelming number dropped to a smaller majority - about 6 in 10 - when the question turned to support for the objectives of the US-led war on IS.

Explaining that drop, Mr. Jahshan says, is the widespread view among Arabs that the biggest winners in the anti-IS campaign will be the US and other countries that don't win Arab popularity contests. Survey respondents see little personal advantage from the military campaign, but named the US, Israel, Iran, and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (in that order) as its major beneficiaries.

Average Arabs - what analysts like to call the "Arab street" - continue to have a largely negative view of the US, with the survey reflecting that in the finding that 73 percent describe US policies in the region as "negative."

Given that sentiment, it's "surprising" that support for Arab participation in the coalition is higher - 61 percent - than overall support for the military campaign's objectives, Jahshan says.

Could this mean that the Arab public is shifting toward a desire to see the region play a larger role in addressing its own problems? …

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