On the need to listen to Arab public opinion

Commenting on the results of a recent Zogby poll of over 7,400 adults in six Arab countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE), Turkey, and Iran, Rami G. Khouri writes: As expected, people in Iraqi are divided on their views of their own national institutions and regional players’ actions in their country. Sunnis mostly lack confidence in the Iraqi military, Iran’s involvement, or the Popular Mobilization Units that are fighting “Islamic State” (ISIS), while Iraqi Shiites support the actions of all these. The more significant finding, however, is the “remarkable consensus” on two important issues: that the cause of the conflict in Iraq is that, “the government in Baghdad does not represent all Iraqis,” and that, “the best way to ultimately resolve the conflict…is forming a more inclusive representative government” — and not partition, with the Kurds also supporting such a representative central government.

I would guess that this Iraqi desire for inclusive, representative governance within a unified national framework is mirrored in most Arab countries that are wracked by war and sectarian tensions, like Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Syria. Ordinary citizens probably hold much more rational and constructive views on how to resolve those conflicts than the warlords and officials, not to mention foreign powers that now mostly shape policy.

The poll found that ISIS was mentioned as the most serious extremist problem facing the region in every country except Jordan, where Al-Qaeda is ranked first. More interestingly — and significant for counter-terrorism purposes — is that in most countries polled citizens identified, “corrupt, repressive, and unrepresentative governments” and, “religious figures and groups promoting extremist ideas” as the most important causes of religious extremism. [Continue reading…]

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