Arab opinion split on war against Iraq

19 March 2003
Ninety per cent of Kuwaitis support a US attack on Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and 86 per cent are in favour of providing assistance to Washington to achieve this end, according to a survey of public opinion carried out by the American University of Kuwait. Support for helping the Iraqi people was slightly lower, with 74 per cent in favour and 19 per cent against. Few Kuwaitis planned to leave the country in the event of war on its border, with 81 per cent saying that they would stay. However, a smaller number felt that their government was taking sufficient step to protect its citizens: 60 per cent said it was and 25 per cent disagreed. Testing the prevalence of radical Islamist feelings, survey asked both whether Islam allows for the killing and attacking of Americans in Kuwait and whether the respondents supported these actions. About 90 per cent answered 'no' to both questions. Only 1 per cent supported such violence.

A survey of the opinions in five other countries in the region, conducted between 19 February and 11 March by the University of Maryland, showed a very different perspective on the US and war. Asked whether or not they held a generally favourable view of the US, only 4 per cent of Saudis, 6 per cent of Moroccans and Jordanians, 13 per cent of Egyptians and 32 per cent of Lebanese said yes. A substantial majority in all five countries thought that a US-led war in Iraq would bring less peace in the Middle East and an even greater number believed that it would increase terrorism. On the question of whether US policy on Iraq was motivated chiefly by oil, 97 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 93 per cent in Morocco, 91 per cent in Lebanon, 87 per cent in Jordan and 77 per cent in Egypt, suspected that this was the prime factor. A majority in all five countries thought that US support for Israel was playing a crucial part in Washington's stance on Iraq.

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