Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 28 October 2020

Arab Youth Survey 2020: United States' standing rises as young people view Iran as greatest enemy

Study authors suggest the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Suleimani and Trump's 'maximum pressure' policy on Tehran could be behind rise in sentiment

Young Arabs view the US' role in the region far more positively today than they did two years ago.

The Arab Youth Survey 2020 found 56 per cent of 18-to-24-year-olds saw America as an ally – up from 35 per cent in 2018.

But its diplomatic and military presence in the region remains divisive, with 43 per cent of respondents describing the country with the world's largest economy as an enemy.

The survey of 4,000 Arabs was conducted in largely face-to-face interviews in 17 countries between January and March.

The findings would not account for or include any views on the US-brokered Abraham Accord, which marked the normalising of diplomatic and economic relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain in September.

Respondents ranked the UAE as the strongest ally of their respective country, with 89 per cent support, followed by Egypt with 80 per cent.

Iran was at the other end of the chart, with just 36 per cent viewing it as an ally of their country and 64 per cent against.

The survey's authors said interviews were carried out shortly after the assassination of Qassem Suleimani, one of Iran's most powerful military figures, in an American strike on his convoy as he left Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

They did not directly link the killing to a rise in support for the US, but did note there was "quiet jubilation... as well as open celebrations" in some Arab capitals at the demise of the Quds Force leader.

"Even so, opinions about the US are very divided, with 43 per cent viewing it as an enemy," they wrote.

"Perceptions of power are not necessarily proportional to how much a country is seen as a friend or an enemy, since Iran, though seen as powerful by only 14 per cent, is described as an enemy by 64 per cent of those surveyed."

In a related section, young Arabs were asked which Arab and non-Arab countries had increased their influence over the region most between 2015 and 2020.

Saudi Arabia was first for 39 per cent of respondents, followed by the UAE at 34 per cent and Qatar at 18 per cent.

For non-Arab countries, the US was first at 46 per cent, followed by Turkey at 20 per cent, and Russia with 16 per cent.

Survey authors found respondents believed that US President Donald Trump's "bombast" against Iran's government had put the Gulf states on a stronger footing, but that sentiment could ebb if an administration run by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden returned to Barack Obama's policy of US engagement with Tehran.

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Updated: October 6, 2020 01:47 PM

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