Arab Street Turns Against Uncle Sam

American political leaders are no longer the only ones earning a bad rap among the populace in the Middle East. Public opinion of the U.S. public, as well as American products, are hitting new lows. And this is in countries that are considered to be allies of the U.S.

The Arab American Institute painted this bleak picture today, releasing the latest results of an opinion poll that Zogby International has been conducting annually since 2002, which gauges public sentiment toward the U.S. in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco.

Speaking this morning at press conference in Washington, James Zogby, the president of the AAI, said that the souring of public opinion could hinder diplomatic efforts by the U.S. to address the situation in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

According to Zogby, these findings reinforce the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report, which were released last week. Among other things, the report recommended direct diplomatic talks with countries in the region including Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.

“What this says to me is if we want to salvage ourselves in Iraq, if we want to salvage the situation in Iraq, we have to salvage our credibility and legitimacy in the region,” Zogby said. “All these numbers do is tell me that the linkage issue is absolutely critical.”

While in previous polls the American people had been viewed favorably, only Lebanon had a positive view this year. The shift in sentiment was largest in Jordan and Egypt, where 76 percent and 72 percent of respondents, respectively, had worse opinions of the U.S. than one year ago.

–Caroline Dobuzinskis