Egyptians Support Iranian Nuclear Program, Want Own Nuclear Weapons

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Egyptians support the Iranian regime developing nuclear weapons, even though they view Iranian nuclear weapons as a serious threat to Egypt, a new poll sponsored by The Israel Project (TIP) has found.

In the poll (Charts), based on face-to-face interviews of 812 Egyptian adults conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 61 percent of the respondents said they support Iran developing nuclear weapons; 30 percent opposed. In 2009, only 41 percent of Egyptians supported Iranian nuclear weapons compared to 34 percent opposed. However there is a growing sense of insecurity – 90 percent of the respondents said Iranian nuclear weapons could be a serious threat for Egypt, compared to 2009 when 62 percent of Egyptians said so.

Likely a result of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, 87 percent of those surveyed agreed that Egypt, despite enormous financial problems and $8 billion in debt, should put its resources into developing nuclear weapons.

“Very scary to people opposed to proliferation of nuclear weapons, let alone to unstable countries in the world's most turbulent part of the world, is the 87 percent who want Egypt to build nuclear weapons,” TIP CEO Josh Block said. “If you want to understand one of the consequences if Iran achieves its goal of developing nukes, understand what will happen – a nuclear nightmare of proliferation - in Egypt and all across the Middle East – and you can say goodbye to the NPT and the non-proliferation regime.”

Also revealing is Iran’s increasing popularity, with 65 percent of the respondents approving of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi government’s decision to resume diplomatic relations with Iran and 60 percent agreeing that re-establishing a relationship with Iran will be good for Egypt.

“Morsi's dangerous embrace of Iran is leading a surprising shift in favor support for Tehran, with whom they have been at odds and had no diplomatic ties for over 30 years,” Block added.

Respondents were asked to name two priorities they see as most important for Morsi, who came into office earlier this year. Fifty-one percent cited strengthening Egypt’s economy and 35 percent cited fighting corruption in the government, while only one percent identified increasing the role of Islam in government and two percent favored strengthening relations with other Muslim countries.

Egyptians did not see their leadership options as a choice between “moderate” Islamists and extreme Islamists. In fact, results from this survey show the Muslim Brotherhood only attracts 4 in 10, and it is dwarfed by the overwhelming 64 percent favorability of the military, while the Salafists, despite its success during the election to Parliament, barely make double digits at 11 percent.

The Egyptian army is the most respected entity in Egypt, with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ran Egypt in the interim period before Morsi was elected, having a 64 percent favorability rating. In addition, 81 percent approve of the job the Armed Forces are doing, with 33 percent of the total respondents strongly approving. Sixty-eight percent say the military has played a positive role since the 2011 revolution and 67 percent agree the military should play a bigger role in Egypt’s new government.

While support for the army is quite favorable, Morsi lacks that positive support. Forty-nine percent have a favorable view toward their president while 43 percent have an unfavorable view. There is an underlying worry that Morsi will make Egypt too Islamists, with 58 percent agreeing under Morsi, “Egypt will become more Islamist and that will infringe on my personal freedom.”

Support for diplomatic relations with Israel has dropped by half since August 2009. In the recent survey, 74 percent disapproved of Egypt having diplomatic relations with Israel; more than half strongly disapprove. Egyptians have low favorability toward both Israel and Jews. When asked to rate Israel and Jews on a favorability scale of zero to one hundred, nearly all (97 percent) of respondents rated Israel/Jews below 50.

A majority of Egyptians rated the Palestinian people favorably, but rated Palestinian leaders poorly. Fifty-five percent gave Iran-backed Hamas a negative rating while 52 percent agree “Hamas only cares about its own agenda” rather than being an ally of Egypt. Sixty-six percent gave Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an unfavorable rating. Hezbollah, which also is backed by Iran and which has strongholds in southern Lebanon, also was given an unfavorable rating by 71 percent of the respondents.

Since 2009 there has been a significant decrease in support for a two-state solution that would see Israel continue to exist as a Jewish state. Support for a two-state solution is down to 30 percent from 43 percent in August 2009. A full 69 percent oppose a two-state solution in which the Palestinians would have their own state and self-government and Israel would exist as a Jewish state.

Thirty-nine percent of Egyptians expressed interest in learning more about Israel, especially the Israeli political system and government. In addition, 88 percent of Egyptians agreed it would be good for Israeli leaders to talk directly to the Palestinian people and 58 percent agreed it would be good if Israel were to communicate better with the Arab world, especially in Arabic.

TIP has a successful outreach program to the Arab world, in Arabic, focusing on social media. Its Facebook page, "Israel Uncensored," has more than one million "likes” from the Arab world, a majority of them from Egypt. The page has become so popular that the government-funded Egyptian daily Al Ahram, the country's leading newspaper, recently warned against reading the site because it promotes normalization.

A bare majority of Egyptians believe the country should be involved regionally and continue to be a leader in the Middle East; 45 percent of the respondents agreed “Egypt needs to focus on things at home and should be less involved in regional politics.”

The survey was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of The Israel Project. The respondents were interviewed face-to-face, August 5-September 8, 2012. The margin of error for the survey is 3.5%.

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