Common Sense in Egypt and Saudi Arabia – by Daniel Pipes


Invited recently by the newly formed Pechter Middle East Polls to ask three questions of 1,000 representative Egyptians and 1,000 urban Saudis, the Middle East Forum focused on Iran and Israel, the countries that most polarize the region. The results are illuminating.

Some Egyptians and Saudis support the idea of an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

(Technical note: Respondents were interviewed face to face in Arabic, in their own homes using a structured questionnaire during November by a credible, private, local commercial company with a solid track record. The margin of error is ±3 percent.)

Iran: In today’s Middle Eastern cold war, the Islamic Republic of Iran heads the revolutionary bloc, while the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt head the opposing status-quo bloc. How anxious are the Saudi and Egyptian populations of the Iranian nuclear weapons buildup? Pechter Polls asked two questions for MEF: “Assuming the Iranian government continues its nuclear enrichment program, would you support an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities?” and “How about an American strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities?”

In Egypt, 17 percent support an Israeli strike and 25 percent an American one. In Saudi Arabia, the figures, respectively, are 25 and 35 percent. Backing for an Israeli strike is surprisingly strong, for an American one, roughly as I expected. These numbers confirm a just-completed review of polling data by David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who found “strikingly high levels of support—especially among Saudis—for tough action against Iran’s nuclear program.”

These figures suggest that between a sixth and a third of the population in the two most important status-quo countries is agreeable to an Israeli or American attack on the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. Although not a negligible minority, it is small enough to give the Egyptian or Saudi government pause about being associated with a strike on Iran. In particular, giving Israeli forces permission to traverse Saudi airspace would seem to be out of the question.

Israel: The Forum asked, “Islam defines the state of Egypt/Saudi Arabia; under the right circumstances, would you accept a Jewish State of Israel?” In this case, 26 percent of Egyptians and 9 percent of Saudi subjects answered in the affirmative.

As this map showing Arabia in 1923 implies, the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia contains several historically diverse regions. Click for large version

We posed this question to quantify the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a conflict not about the size of Israel, its resources, armaments, sovereignty over holy sites, or the number of its citizens living on the West Bank. Rather, it concerns the fundamental goal of Zionism, the creation of a state defined by Jewish identity.

To provide context: About 20 percent of Palestinians since the 1920s have been willing to live with Israel in a state of harmony. The Egyptian response exceeds this slightly, the Saudi one comes in substantially below it. These results are in keeping with the more overtly religious nature of political life in Saudi Arabia than in Egypt. They confirm that the main source of anti-Zionism now is no longer nationalism but Islam.

Drilling down into the survey numbers shows little demographic variation (by age, education, etc.). One difference runs along gender lines, with Egyptian females accepting a Jewish state of Israel more than Egyptian males, but just the reverse in Saudi Arabic, something not readily explainable.

Geographic differences in Saudi Arabia are more consequential. Residents in the western part of the country, that closest to Israel, accept it as a Jewish state much more readily than do residents of the more distant central and eastern regions. Conversely, residents in the eastern and central regions are 50 percent more likely to endorse an American strike on nearby Iran than those of the more remote western region.

The Saudi west (Hijaz, Asir) remains true to its pedigree as the most liberal part of the country, whereas the east (Al-Ahsa) has the most Shi’ites and the most fear of Tehran. These regional variations point to the utility of seeing Saudi Arabia not as a homogenous whole but as an amalgam of regions with historically different identities, and perhaps making policy with these distinctions in mind.

In sum, these polling numbers point to a small but not trivial base of constructive views in countries largely hostile to the West and Israel. If this base has few prospects of driving policy anytime soon, it offers a kernel of common sense that, if given suitable attention, can be built upon to foster long-term improvements.

  • Proxywar

    Instead of American and Israel attacking Iran I think Egypt and Saudi Arabia should do it.They need to pull their weight in this conflict or at the very least show us they are slightly on our side. Hvaing said that, I think attacking Iran would be the dumbest move right now. As for these Muslims who you say like us and wouldn't mind us attacking Iran we must never forget the practice of taqqiya.

  • Robert Bernier

    Are the Gulf states willing to make peace with Israel in exchange for the “ Nuke Umbrella” ?
    One cannot help but think of the Iranian president's close parallels to Hitler, who ultimately brought disaster upon the world, his own people, and himself. Just as the West today fears that nuclear weapons in the hands of this irrational leader could lead to a worldwide apocalypse, the West also feared expanded Nazi military aggression so much that it put Hitler's systematic annihilation of the Jews on the backburner as described at :

  • keithrage

    I'ma-mad-jihad believes that his role in life is to bring the conflict of war onto the Jews so that the 12th Imam will rise from his well.
    He has spent $30 million decorating this well in preparation for the event.
    Iran is on track and the world must intervene, I don't care who does it but it's time to stand up and squash this mad little tyrant.

  • jacmaclean

    There seems to be little awareness of the political and cultural effects if Iran where to acquire a nuclear and missile targeting capabilities that they would then have popularly perceived as being imminently able to take out any European capital in a mushroom cloud I would expect that in hand with a whole new qualitative magnitude of Iranian bluster and stalking threat it would galvanizing effects it would further recruit and galvanize activist elements in their Muslim populations and tempt others to convert as the only means of escaping imminent destruction by an enemy who will portray itself scornful of a hoary MAD doctrine as a welcome precursor to Paradise and their own parting shots of mingling mushroom clouds over Europe. And where the rest of the world if Europe and many of its millions become the steps to the higher echelons
    of the Hereafter?
    As for US preventative attacks by a Nobel laureated President who supports Turkey's membership of the EU and who says Jesus’pbuh’ (see Cairo speech) Israel would be forewarned of the economic and other repercussions of them undertaking any unilateral action –it is unlikely.
    Anyway, Iran and co-religionists needs a ‘bad’ Israel as the causus belli and Palestine as the secularised suffering on the cross as the leit motif to excite the ostentatious compassion of the dominating liberals(sic) elites.

  • Proxywar

    The word on the street is someone is going to make a move after Jan.15th.

  • Alex Kovnat

    Suppose that in the 1960's, China were to have posed a grave threat to the Soviet Union. Chances are the Soviets would have loved for us or the Israelis to bomb Chinese nuclear facilities. But was Soviet communism that much better than Maoist communism? Likewise, is Saudi Wahabbi Islam that much, if any, less extreme than Iranian Shiite Islam?

    When Iran and Iraq were at war in the 1980's, one could have said at the time, “Its a shame thay can't both lose”.

  • abrahamstubenhaus

    Thank you Mr. Pipes fopr your in-depth view of what's really happening out there!
    However, Mr. Obama is going to continue to show off how he is a much more religious Moslem than all of them. He will continue to warn Israel against any preemptive strike, because it may cause the death of his fellow Muslims.
    How terrible Mr. Obama will look if he allows Jews to kill Muslims!!!!

  • USMCSniper

    An American military intelligence official says Russia's pending sale of S-300 long-range missiles and S-300 launch platforms to Iran presents a “decision point for Israel, since once the anti-aircraft system is in place it could deter any strike” against Iran's nuclear sites. In this first gloomy statement, the American source did not rule out such a strike but implied it would be more difficult.

    State department spokesman Robert Wood said on Dec. 22: “We have repeatedly made clear… that we would strongly oppose the sale of S-300.” US officials warned the missiles installed within Iran's borders could reach American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and shift the Middle East military balance of power

  • trickyblain

    Arabs don't like Persians after 1,500 years of conflict. Alert the media.

  • elizabethwerner

    “Iran: In today’s Middle Eastern cold war, the Islamic Republic of Iran heads the revolutionary bloc, while the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt head the opposing status-quo bloc.”

    Shiite (Iran) and Sunni (Arabia)……….what's the difference?

    Here is some of what BOTH believe:…(In their Koran)….

    004.094 O ye who believe! When ye go abroad in the cause of Allah, investigate carefully, and say not to any one who offers you a salutation: “Thou art none of a believer!” Therefore carefully investigate. {they are to keep their intentions hidden

    004.100 He who forsakes his home in the cause of Allah, finds in the earth Many a refuge, wide and spacious.

    004.101 When ye travel – through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear '''the unbelievers''' May attack you: For '''the Unbelievers''' are unto you open enemies.

    009.123 O ye who believe! fight '''the unbelievers''' who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you. [[[ the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies 004.101 ]]] {Is this a good teaching to be feeding to the young within non-Muslim societies?

    003.028 Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless it be that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking as it were security. {telling lies to non-Muslims is the nature of Islam

    009.004 But the treaties are not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term.

    009.005 But when the forbidden months are past {when the 'treaties' expire, although they may break them at any time – if it benefits Islam} then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war.

    008.039 And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah

    002.193 And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah.

    005.051 O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them for friendship is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.

    008.067 It is not fitting for a prophet that he should have prisoners of war [slay them first] until he hath thoroughly subdued the land. {Treason in all non-Muslim nations

    009.029 Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, even if they are of the People of the Book, {The Jews and Christians} Other non-Muslims are not so lucky] until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

    033.061 They shall have a curse on them: whenever they are found, they shall be seized and slain without mercy. {Genocidal teaching – no matter how you look at it!

    009.038 O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter. {Good teaching for the young?

    004.095 Not equal are those believers who sit at home and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons… those who strive and fight hath He distinguished above those who sit at home by a special reward.

    002.216 Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing [war] which is good for you and that ye love a thing [peace] which is bad for you?

    004.104 And slacken not in following up the enemy: If ye are suffering hardships, they are suffering similar hardships.

    009.039 Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place.

    004.084 Then fight in Allah's cause. Thou art held responsible only for thyself – and rouse the believers. {which is what the imams are doing in their mosques)

    047.004 Therefore, when ye meet '''the Unbelievers''' in fight, smite at their necks. Behead them! and the Muslims are commanded to initiate the fight} 002.216 – 009.039 – throughout the earth} 004.101 – 004.100

    (where, exactly, Daniel,…..are you coming from?)

    Daniel claims….

    “In sum, these polling numbers point to a small but not trivial base of constructive views in countries largely hostile to the West and Israel”

    I beg to differ.None of those poles ever asked me about my views……and I have no doubt – NONE WHATSOEVER – that I'm not alone in my thoughts.

    There is a person named Dillah….who posted this statement on your site Daniel….… …….

    here it is….

    Submitted by Dillah (United States), Sep 18, 2009 at 10:17

    Salam Al Marayati claims…The Quran calls for freedom of religion: “Let there be no compulsion in matters of faith.” (Quran 2:256)

    He's lying….(a command that allows him to do so – is found in the Koran…004.094 – 003.028 )

    The following is brutal….

    009.005 But when the forbidden months are past then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. {chapter 9)

    008.067 It is not fitting for a prophet that he should have prisoners of war [slay them first] until he hath thoroughly subdued the land. {Treason – not to mention, mass murder)

    Salam Al Marayati will say “But that is only for Muslims' lands. (heard it before)…. But his own Koran will call him a liar….

    004.101 When ye travel – through the earth – there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear “'the unbelievers”' May attack you: For the Unbelievers [non-muslims] – are unto you open enemies.

    Also – Salam Al Marayati can not deny the fact that the Koran calls the Son of God an abomination…

    037.151 Is it not that they say, from their own invention,

    037.152 Allah has begotten children? but they are liars!

    019.088 They say: (Allah) Most Gracious has begotten a son!

    019.089 Indeed ye have put forth a thing most monstrous!

    (According to the Koran – Jesus has no father)

    005.051 O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them for friendship is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.


    005.041 O Messenger! let not those grieve thee, who race each other into unbelief: whether it be among those who say “We believe” with their lips but whose hearts have no faith; or it be among the Jews,- men who will listen to any lie

    002.065 And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath: We said to them: “Be ye apes, despised and rejected.” [The Jews and the Christians]

    007.166 When in their insolence they transgressed all prohibitions, We said to them: ” Be ye apes, despised and rejected.”

    For the atheists who are happy with these facts, know – there are writings in the Koran that allow Jews and Christians to have 2nd class status. No such writings are in there for any of you.

    Taught in the Koran:

    Beheadings (047.004) – Racism (005.041) – Gang Rape (033.052) – Crucifixions (005.033) – Genocide (033.061) – Treason – (008.067)

    Salam Al Marayati is lying, not because I say so – but because his own Koran says so.

    Daniel, much of the time, I don't understand you. The Koran is on line for all to see. Those writings are perfectly clear – why do you think there are so many 'terrorists' groups in the name of Islam who all have the same character?

    If you welcome the so-called 'moderate' muslims – then you're keeping the door open for their Koran to have free reign (and 'freedom of religion' NEVER included the right for inciting followers to carry out violence)

    This needs to be said (not for proselytizing!)…Fact: There is not one single Scripture in the New Testament that teaches humans to be violent with each other. None exist. It is the angels (not humans) that will carry out punishments…

    Mat 13:49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels [NOT HUMANS] shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just

    Now that the excuse that Christianity is no better (which is a lie) is removed…Carefully consider…

    The Koran violates the US Constitution. The New testament does not.

    Rom 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. {Beyond this – there is no other Christian Command.

    But if the Rosie O'Donnell's of America do not wake up – they're going to get everything they deserve – for shooting down those of us who tried to warn them.

    The word love – does not appear anywhere in the Koran….certainly not for non-muslims!

    The God of the New Testament does not allow His followers to FORCE Christianity upon non-Christians.

    But neither is He mocked – for that which we sow – that is what we'll reap.

    Is it a good thing to be teaching the young these?….

    Beheadings (047.004) – Racism (005.041) – Gang Rape (033.052) – Crucifixions (005.033) – Genocide (033.061) – Treason – (008.067)

    You be the judge

    ……(end of Dillah's statement)

    Where do you stand Daniel? (keep that answer to yourself……for I will know what is in your heart by the words that come form your mouth)…..

    Rev 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I (Jesus) will spue thee out of my mouth.