Marc Lynch points out that only “two Arab countries now see Iran as a good model (Lebanon and Iraq), Iran is viewed unfavorably in 11 out of 17 Arab countries, and large majorities of Arab publics sided with the opposition Green Movement over the Iranian government and disapprove of Iran’s role in Syria, Iraq, and the Gulf”:
This should not be taken as a green light for military action against Tehran, though. While support for a military strike with international legitimacy has grown significantly since 2006 in the polling, there isn’t a majority in favor in any Arab country. A 34-point increase in support for a military strike among Jordanians or a 24-point increase among Egyptians is significant as a trend. But approval of military action doesn’t crack 40 percent in any surveyed country, which is hardly an overwhelming mandate. Indeed, an American or Israeli military strike is probably the only thing that could rescue Iran’s regional image at this point — particularly if the regime is able to emerge with a Hezbollah-like narrative of success through survival.
Lynch worries about the growing sectarianism evident in the polling:
In Saudi Arabia, 92 percent of Shia reported a favorable view of Iran compared with 0 percent of Sunnis; in Bahrain, 76 percent approved of Iran compared with 4 percent of Sunnis. The same phenomenon appeared in almost every country with a significant Shia population
He goes on to argue that capitalizing on “sectarian hatred might be useful for regimes seeking to browbeat Shia populations into sullen acceptance of their subordination, but virtually guarantees enduring popular discontent and recurrent uprisings.”