Sunday, May 07, 2006

Lebanon and Iranian nukes

Here are some interesting statistics on Lebanese public opinion regarding the Iranian nuclear program and US efforts to confront it. It is likely that if similar polls were conducted in other Arab countries the numbers would be even more lopsided.

In a recent poll, 90.7% of Lebanese support Iran's right to own nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

79.3% believe the driving force behind the Iranian nuclear program is achieving a nuclear balance with Israel, while only 20.7% think it isn't.

In case of US military action against Iran, 76.4% of Lebanese would support Iran, while 22% would wish to remain neutral. Only 1.6% would support the US.

79.1% of Lebanese think Iranian nuclear arms pose a threat to the US and Israel. Only 11.8% see it as a threat to Arab countries, and 9.1% as a threat to all.

76.9% of Lebanese (and 80% of Shiites) think that Hizbollah will participate in any war between the US and Iran.

78.1% of Lebanese believe that Iran's entry into the nuclear club will help the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.

(source: al-Hayat, Tuesday, May 2, p 16)

I'm not sure why the US is pushing this issue so hard right now. The nuclear issue is not critical. It is only part of the broader struggle between the US and Iran for influence in the region. Most people see Israeli nukes as a much greater threat than Iranian nukes, but Israeli nukes are not on the table.

Apparently US policy makers still haven't figured out that it is a battle for hearts and minds. The Bush administration has again chosen a losing battle. No matter the outcome, Iran wins, either through increased influence from confronting the US and Israel, through actual development of nuclear weapons, or by drawing the US even further into a bloody quagmire that Americans will tire of and lose.

The only way to address the nuclear issue in the region is to work towards a region free of nuclear weapons, as part of a broader global program of nuclear disarmament that eliminates this terrible weapon from the possession of all.


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