Syrian President Bashar Assad 311 (R).
(photo credit: Sana / Reuters)
WASHINGTON – Support for Syrian President Bashar Assad has collapsed on the Arab
street, a report released by the Arab American Institute Foundation on Tuesday
Middle East analyst and AAI President James Zogby said that
although he discovered approval rates for Assad as low as 0 percent in some Arab
countries, his data indicates that Arabs also do not support American
intervention in support of the anti-Assad opposition.
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The Arab American
Institute surveyed more than 4,000 Arabs in six countries in late September and
early October, asking about opinions on Assad’s regime.
the sharp turnaround in support for the Syrian president. In 2008, he noted,
Assad polled as one of the most respected leaders in the region, whereas today
the overwhelming majority of those polled in all six states – Morocco, Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates – said they supported
the anti-government demonstrators.
One hundred percent of those polled in
Jordan said they sided with the opposition groups, whereas in the other five
countries, levels of support ranged from 83% on up.
An Arab League
delegation is expected to visit Syria later this week in an attempt to mediate
between the Ba’athist regime and the coalition of opposition groups.
study indicates that the public in Arab League member states may be less
interested in mediation: In none of the six countries polled did more than 15%
of the respondents believe that Assad can still govern Syria.
a mere 1% of those polled said Assad can still govern Syria.
the risk, Zogby said, of following in the path of former Libyan leader Muammar
“When the Arab League passed its resolution on Muammar Gaddafi,
I thought it was a one-off. His bizarre behavior, problematic policies and
support for terror had made him an outcast,” Zogby said. Now, he warned,
Damascus’s heavy-handed response to its own opposition had made Assad reviled in
“This is an issue best solved in the region,” Zogby
said. “I don’t think that there is any tolerance for an American role. The mood
in the region and in Syria is moving in only one direction.”
of the Lebanese polled said the Syrian- sponsored Hezbollah was playing a
positive role in Syria, 0% of Lebanese thought that the US was playing a
positive role in Syria, and they were not alone. Twenty percent or fewer
of those polled in all six countries thought that Washington had a positive role
in the situation.
Even in majority Sunni states, Iran was largely
perceived to have a more positive role than the US, although favorable public
opinion for Iran in Lebanon has diminished.
The new study was released
one day after the US pulled out its ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, although
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland emphasized that the envoy had “not
been recalled and not withdrawn,” and was instead brought home for “a break” and
Despite public attempts by the State Department to
downplay the move, Damascus responded by calling home its ambassador to
Washington, Imad Moustapha.
Nuland accused Damascus of running a “smear
campaign of malicious and deceitful propaganda against Ambassador Ford,” and
expressed concern that “the kinds of falsehoods that are being spread about
Ambassador Ford could lead to violence against him.”
Despite the visit by
Arab League representatives set for Wednesday, a major anti- Assad group said
that it opposed talks between the opposition and the Syrian leadership. The
Syrian National Council released a statement calling for international monitors
to be sent to the country, and for a nationwide strike on the day of the
Consistent with Zogby’s analysis of the Arab
street, the Syrian National Council has said it opposes outside military
involvement similar to the US-backed NATO air strikes that helped lead to