Monday, July 03, 2006

Iranian Public Opinion on the Nuclear Program: A Potential Asset for the Int'l. Community

Michael Herzog, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy:
"Why is it that our planes crash, our buildings collapse at the slightest tremor, our cars burst into flames, but when it comes to nuclear energy, it's a national issue?" - Iranian blogger, January 18, 2006.

While the international community debates options for halting a defiant Iran's nuclear program, most observers assume that the Iranian people support the regime's nuclear efforts, and that any dissent centers on tactics rather than substance. By this view, nuclear progress is an expression of the country's national pride and its sovereign right to develop and modernize. The truth is more nuanced, however. Beneath the veneer of unanimity, there is much more debate among the populace than conventional wisdom would report. READ MORE

In this new timely Washington Institute Policy Focus, visiting fellow Brig. Gen. Michael Herzog shows how Iranian public opinion can be used as a powerful new policy tool for compelling Tehran to change its nuclear stance. The regime regards public support for the program as essential to fending off both domestic and external pressures. Accordingly, the international community should cultivate the existing seeds of opposition by initiating massive outreach to the Iranian people, highlighting the economic and diplomatic costs of continued nuclear progress, making clear the risks of a militarized nuclear program, and even exploiting subtle divisions within the regime itself. The more confident Tehran grows of public support, the more defiantly it will actdepriving it of such support is therefore critical to defusing the mounting nuclear crisis.

Format: PDF, 25 Pages
Policy Focus #56
Published: June 2006

About The Author

Michael Herzog, a brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), is a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute. From 2001 to July 2004, he served as military secretary to the Israeli minister of defense. In that capacity, he acted as the liaison between the defense minister and the IDF, prime minister's office, intelligence community, and Israeli defense establishment. He has also served as head of the strategic planning division (1998-2001), a member of the Intelligence Corps (1974-1994), and an infantry soldier (during the 1973 war). Between 1993 and 2001, General Herzog participated in most of Israel`s peace talks with the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Syrians, including the Wye Plantation summit, Camp David summit, and Taba negotiations.
An excerpt:
A public opinion survey in Iran conducted by the Tarrance Group in May–June 2005 for the Iran Institute for Democracy discovered that: “A plurality of adults, 42 percent, says that the Islamic Republic’s access to nuclear weapons would add to their anxiety and discomfort. Only 37 percent of adults indicated that this would not.… Anxiety over nuclear weapons in the hands of the Islamic Republic increases among young adults, going from 34 percent among 50+ adults to 50 percent among 16–24 year olds.”