I came across this new poll made by YouGov and thought the results were interesting: Apparently most Arabs from the Gulf countries think Iran is a bigger threat than Israel. I knew this was the Gulf states’ opinion but it puzzles me coming from the population.
I couldn’t find the original poll data and have no figures per country, but anyway I wonder whether this feeling is caused by some political aspects or religious ones or both. And what role does the Arabic Nationalism play in it?
Shiite movements started as a political group during the Ali/Muawiya conflict. They continued during the Omayyad period and also the Abbassid caliphate while getting an ideological background which was necessary for the movement’s perennity. Their historical foundation added to their clerical institution, and now Iran’s existence as an Islamic republic strengthened the religious and political ties.
As to the Arabs, I guess I can divide the Arab world into two parts, the usual ones:
On one side we have the Maghreb with its mostly Sunnite inhabitants. The region experienced a Shiite rule under the Fatimids when Shiite religious ideology was enforced on/adopted by the Berbers. But soon the Zirids revolted against the Fatimids, abandoned the Shiite path and went back to the original Sunnite group.
Closer to us, we regularly hear of Algerians (mainly in Algiers and Oran) or Moroccans who become Shiites. Morocco decided to cut its relations with Iran which she accused of encouraging the Moroccans to leave the Maliki Sunnite madhab. Of course, there were other reasons to the Moroccan reaction. Algeria on the other hand admits the existence of these “conversions” while minimising their importance, and it never accused Iran of being behind them. But Algeria had cut its relations with Iran after it accused it of supporting the FIS. Things improved afterwards and the two countries seem to enjoy a good relationship.
The North African people in most support the right of Iran to own nuclear technology for peaceful (and not so peaceful) goals. They don’t see it as a threat to their security. They also respect Iran for standing next to Hizbullah and Hamas. And despite what the Sunnites think of the Shiite creed, there is little animosity felt towards them.
Actually only a few North Africans, among those who claim to be salafis, hate the Iranians altogether with Hizbullah because they are Shiites, or non-Muslims in other words.
On the other side we have the Mashreq and more specifically the Gulf countries. Politically, there are so many conflicting points that I will mention only a few:
- Yemen’s problems with the Shiite Houthis. Iran offered a mediation which was refused by Yemen. Some Yemeni officials think Iran supports the Houthis.
- UAE’s conflict with Iran about the Abu Musa islands. Yet Iranians make important businesses in the UAE.
- Iran’s declaration about Bahrain. Iran apologised and Bahrain now supports Iran in its attempts to get nuclear abilities.
- Iraq’s situation and the internal divide between the Shiites (supposedly supported by Iran), the Sunnites and the Kurds.
- KSA’s Wahhabi ideology which is by definition against Shiites. And KSA’s strategic influence in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere which is facing Iran’s activities.
- The existence of Shiite minorities and majorities under Sunnite minorities rule in the Gulf. And Shiite and Sunnite Arabs in Iran under Shiite Persian rule.
Having said this, one could understand the positions of these Arab states towards Iran and their lack of confidence in their neighbour. One could even understand the populations’ mistrust of Iran.
It could even be more understandable if you consider the Arab Nation concept which is competing with Persia, and the Sunnite versus Shiite aspect.
But how on earth could they think Iran is more dangerous and threatening than Israel? I still don’t know the answer. Any ideas?