WASHINGTON - Eight out of 10 Arabs had an unfavorable view of the United States and only 6 percent believed the US troop buildup in Iraq in the last year has worked, in a poll of six Arab countries released yesterday.
The poll by the University of Maryland and Zogby International also indicated most Arabs did not see US foe Iran as a threat and they sympathized more with Hamas in the Palestinian Territories than US-backed Fatah.
"There is a growing mistrust and lack of confidence in the United States," said Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland professor in charge of the annual poll.
The survey canvassed the opinions of about 4,000 people over the past month in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates. It had a margin of error of about 1.6 percent.
Of those polled, 83 percent had an unfavorable view of the United States and 70 percent had no confidence in the superpower.
"You see this [mistrust] in the number of people who are more comfortable with the US withdrawal from Iraq," said Telhami, noting that more people in this year's annual survey wanted the United States to leave Iraq.
Last year, 44 percent believed Iraqis would find a way to bridge their differences if the United States pulled out but that figure rose to 61 percent this year.
Only 6 percent of the respondents believed the US boost of troop levels in Iraq last year by 30,000 had worked to reduce the conflict and one in three mistrusted news reports that violence had declined at all. Eight in 10 Arabs believed that Iraqis were worse off than they were before the US invasion in March 2003, while 2 percent thought they were better off.
The biggest concern was that Iraq would remain unstable and spread instability in the region, with 59 percent voicing this worry over 42 percent last year.
In contrast to US government views, most Arabs did not see Iran as a major threat and 67 percent considered Tehran had the right to a nuclear program.
Over 80 percent of respondents identified the Arab-Israeli conflict as a key issue but just over half did not believe there would ever be a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians despite US efforts to broker a deal.
The United States has sought to isolate the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which took control of the Gaza strip last June, while US-backed President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement control the West Bank.
In the conflict between Hamas and Fatah, only 8 percent said they sympathized most with Fatah and 18 percent were more partial to Hamas, while 37 percent said they backed both.
In the Lebanese conflict, only 9 percent expressed sympathy with the majority governing coalition supported by Washington while 30 percent backed the opposition led by Hezbollah, which the United States opposes.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's popularity grew as did Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's. When Arabs were asked which world leader they disliked most, President Bush was at the top of the list with 63 percent; Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert followed at 39 percent.
Looking ahead to the next US president, 18 percent of respondents believed Democratic contender Barack Obama had the best chance of advancing peace in the Middle East followed by 13 percent who saw Hillary Clinton as their best hope. Only 4 percent chose Arizona Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.