According to a new poll, over ninety percent of young Iraqis view the US as their enemy.
Mark Penn, the controversial strategist behind the public relations and market research firm Penn Schoenn Berland, oversaw the poll, which consisted of more than 250 face-to-face interviews in three Iraqi cities, plus over 3,000 additional interviews in 15 other Arab countries.
In order to accurately capture the diversity of the region, the poll selected men and women between the ages of 18 and 24, and boasts an error rate of plus or minus 1.65 percent.
While opinions of the US were particularly pointed in Yemen, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories, they were much more tempered in the surrounding Gulf States. Roughly 85 percent of those living around the Gulf considered the US an ally, whereas Iraqis, Yemenis, and Palestinians overwhelmingly considered America to be an enemy, in some cases at rates above ninety percent.
In North African countries, approval ratings of the US landed between these extremes, with 66 percent of respondents considering America an ally.
The poll results provide insights into under-examined results of the Iraq War in the region in which it actually played out: namely, the consequences of the War on Terror in the lives of those who were too young to fight at the height of tensions. A number of hawkish politicians who advocated for US invasion in 2003 cited the likelihood of post-war Iraq becoming an American ally following the confrontation as reason to pursue war.
In a speech before things boiled over, Vice President Dick Cheney claimed Iraqis would “erupt in joy” over the invasion and that war would lead to “strong bonds” between the countries. In the wake of the astronomically high civilian body count and the billions of dollars spent, the poll displays that very few young Iraqis have actually been endeared to the US.
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In nearby Yemen, where the US has conducted assassination campaigns and supported Saudi bombings, over 80 percent of respondents described the US as an enemy.
The high disapproval of American intervention in the region is worth noting, as it contradicts the Obama administration’s practice of citing Yemen as a foreign policy success story. In fact, according to some reports, American-caused civilian deaths in the country has been linked to helping the group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula gain a foothold.
The poll was not limited to the effects of the US role in Iraq over the last decade and a half. It also included questions on the Islamic State, which a majority of young people failed to envision succeeding in its mission to reshape the political map of the region, especially with its extremely violent practices. Most also reported worries over the rise of sectarianism, especially in relation to its threat to stability.
Across genders, young people overwhelmingly demanded that leaders do more to promote women’s rights, seeking to bring repressive cultures into line with international gender norms.
However, the poll’s most pressing finding for Americans, of course, is in the widespread disapproval of the country.
“For years, many have argued that Muslims and Arabs, like other humans, don’t appreciate being bombed or occupied,” says Haroon Moghul, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. “Finally, we have a study to confirm this suspicion.”