Two-thirds of Arab youth viewed Iran as the region's biggest enemy
The number of Arab young people who view the United States as an enemy has risen since President Donald Trump was elected in 2017, according to the results of the latest ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey.
The results of the annual survey, which has been running since 2008, were released on Tuesday. It includes 3,300 face-to-face interviews with Arab youth aged 18 to 24 years. Interviews were carried out between January 6 and 29 in 15 Arab states, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories and Yemen.
The results found that the percentage of young Arabs who view the US as an adversary has nearly doubled since 2016. In 2016, towards the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, 32 percent said they viewed the US as an enemy. This rose to 49 percent in 2017 when Donald Trump was elected to the Oval Office and this year it stood at 59 percent.
When asked which other countries they viewed as an enemy, 67 percent of survey respondents said Iran, 36 percent said Russia and just 7 percent said the UAE.
While Russia’s favouritism has risen, when Arab youth were asked which country – the US or Russia – was their strongest ally, the results were split, with 38 percent saying the US, 37 percent favouring Russia and 25 percent undecided.
“Unfortunately, for Washington, the United States appears as the runner-up “enemy” at 59 percent, with a mere 41 percent considering Washington an ally, continuing a striking downward trend in recent years.
However, perceptions of the US appear complex, and perhaps not fully consistent,” according to Hussein Ibish, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
“US refusal to get drawn into the Syrian war, its relatively hands-off attitude towards the conflicts in Yemen and Libya, and complaints about “free riders” and demands for greater “burden-sharing” by both Barack Obama and Donald Trump are often cited as evidence of a US retreat,” Ibish said in an opinion piece accompanying the survey results.
Paradoxically, when asked which country they would like to live in, 21 percent of respondents said the US and 20 percent of respondents said they think their country should emulate the US.
Saudi Arabia was deemed to have seen its influence in the region increase this year, according to 37 percent, and 60 percent of respondents said they believe the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year will have no long-term negative impact on Saudi Arabia’s image abroad or in the Arab world.
Read the full results here
Read Hussein Ibish's full op-ed here