Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Myth: Iran's Leadership is Despised by Its Population

This one should fold to a simple poll. Fortunately Reader's Digest and Zogby have produced one.

14. Would you like to see Iran's society become more secular and liberal, more religious and conservative or just stay as it is?

More secular and liberal: 30.7%
More religious and conservative: 36.0%
Just stay as it is: 15.0%
No answer: 18.3%

Leaving out people who don't answer, 62% of Iranians who have an opinion either want Iran to become more religious or to stay as it is.

Where do these stories about an overwhelming majority of Iranians eagerly awaiting the opportunity to establish a regime amenable to the Middle East interests of the United States come from? Two places - the first is wishful thinking and the second is sampling error - Iranians who travel and especially Iranian exiles really do despise the clerical regime.

Somebody estimated for Juan Cole that "only some 15-20 percent [of Iranians] support their religious, populist government" and Mr. Cole believed it.

Of people who expressed an opinion, only 18% of Iranians in this poll believe the Iranian society is "just right" but that is grossly misleading since another 42%, twice that many, think Iran's religious leaders should have more influence on Iranian society.

Unlike the dictatorships of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the Iranian clerics do not disagree with their people either on Israel or on their nation's rightful place in the Middle East.

18: Level of Agreement: The state of Israel is illegitimate and should not exist
Str disagreement: 3.9%
2: 4.5%
3 (neutral): 21.1%
4: 14.6%
Str agreement: 51.9%

17: Level of Agreement: Iran should play the dominant economic and military role in the Middle East region:
Str disagreement: 4.4%
2: 7.9%
3 (neutral): 29.5%
4: 24.8%
Str agreement: 31.1%

I will point out that believing the state of Israel should not exist is no worse than Africans believing the state of Apartheid South Africa should not exist or Ronald Reagan believing the USSR should not exist. There is no implication that every Jew or citizen of Israel should be killed or removed any more than opponents of South Africa advocated the murder or dislocation of all Whites or Ronald Reagan advocated the murder or dislocation of all Russians.

The policies pursued by Iran's leaders, especially the policies Westerners have a problem with, are not unpopular with Iranians.

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