Wednesday, September 06, 2006

French, Americans Would Back Strike on Iran

Paul Taylor, Reuters:
Most French and Americans would support military action against Iran as a last resort if other means fail to stop it acquiring nuclear weapons, a major transatlantic opinion survey showed on Wednesday.

But among Germans polled, more said they would accept Iran getting the atom bomb rather than using force if diplomacy or sanctions do not work.

The annual Transatlantic Trends survey found that while European views of U.S. foreign policy have turned even more negative in the last year, the two sides of the Atlantic share broadly similar perceptions of the threats to their security. READ MORE

The poll, conducted in June, also showed a profound shift in Turkish public opinion away from the West and toward sympathy with Iran, partly reflecting a decline of support for Turkey's bid to join the European Union among both Turks and Europeans.

The study, conducted for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, found European disapproval of President George W. Bush's conduct of foreign policy has risen to 76 percent, the highest in five years, while only 18 percent support it.

Despite closer U.S.-EU cooperation at government level on issues ranging from Iran's nuclear program to Afghanistan and the Middle East, most voters on both sides of the Atlantic feel relations have either turned worse or stayed the same.

"The interesting question is why, when official relations have got better in last two years, there is no bounce in public opinion," said Ron Asmus, director of the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Center think-tank in Brussels.

"There has been a rapprochement between policy elites but it hasn't produced visible breakthroughs or solved any big problems together that people register," he said.


Most worrying for Washington was that public support for U.S. global leadership has eroded even in traditional allies such as Britain, the Netherlands and Germany, Asmus said.

Most Europeans appeared to have made their minds up about Bush, he said.

A parallel opinion survey of European Parliament members and European Commission officials, conducted by the Italian think-tank Compagnia di San Paolo, found they were much more supportive of U.S. leadership although they too disapproved overwhelmingly of Bush's handling of international policies.

Asked about threats, Europeans and Americans agree that terrorism is the greatest danger facing the world in the next 10 years, closely followed by the risk of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and by radical Islamic fundamentalism.

They also share similar views on the limits to restricting civil liberties to combat terrorism, the poll showed.

But while Europeans tend to fear global warming more, Americans are more concerned about the spread of disease and the rising power of China.

On Iran, 96 percent of Americans and 85 percent of Europeans see the possibility of Tehran becoming a nuclear power as a very important or somewhat important threat.

Asked the best way to avert the risk, 45 percent in Europe and 28 percent of Americans favored incentives while 36 percent of Americans and 28 percent of Europeans backed sanctions.

Only a handful in either the United States or Europe cited supporting opposition groups, while 15 percent of Americans and 6 percent of Europeans see military action as the best way.

However, when asked what should happen if non-military measures failed to stop Tehran acquiring atomic weapons, 53 percent of Americans and 43 percent of Europeans supported taking military action rather than accepting a nuclear Iran.

In France, the figure was 54 percent. In Germany, 40 percent supported military action but 46 percent said it would be better to let Iran acquire nuclear arms.

The TNS Opinion poll was conducted in the United States and 12 European countries, including Bulgaria and Romania for the first time, on June 6-24 among samples of about 1,000 men and women aged 18 and older in each country. The margin of error was plus/minus 3 percentage points.