Even in some regions that enjoy traditionally close relations with Iran, the proportion of unfavorable views increased significantly in light of recent circumstances. In Pakistan, for instance, that proportion doubled from eight to 16 percent of the population.
In other areas, like Lebanon, the results broke down very much along sectarian lines, with the Shia population overwhelmingly supporting Iran while Christians felt strongly unfavorable and Sunnis felt extremely so. This arguably reflects Iran’s recent contributions to the growth of sectarian conflicts throughout the region, as in Iraq where its fight against the Islamic State has led to its financing and directing numerous violent Shiite militia groups in the country.
This has surely led to the virtually across-the-board decline in attitudes toward the Islamic Republic among other Muslim majority nations. Concerns over Iran’s sectarian influence were further fueled on Thursday when the nation of Bahrain announced that it had seized a cache of explosives and bomb-making materials.
According to NewsMax, these materials were identified as being similar to those known to be supplied to terrorist groups by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Tehran has long been a supporter of Shiite militants in Bahrain, which has similarly strategic significance to Yemen, where the Iran-backed Houthi rebels constitute a worsening threat to Iran’s main regional rival, Saudi Arabia.
The proximity of the Yemeni and Bahraini terrorist threats to Saudi Arabia is reminiscent of the proximity of Iran’s terrorist proxy Hezbollah to the Jewish state of Israel. In an article published Thursday, the Wall Street Journal indicated that these threats, together with the apparent rapprochement between Iran and the United States under the Obama administration, have led Israel and Saudi Arabia to begin putting away their traditional enmity in order to confront what they both perceive as the leading regional threat.
Awareness of that threat has also contributed to greater resistance within Arab nations to Iranian media and propaganda, according to Al Arabiya. An editorial at the pan-Arab news site indicates that Arab media outlets supported and defended Iran for a time, but that this changed in light of the Arab Spring and the recognition of Iran as “just another country with regional ambitions that hides behind slogans of Islam, justice and hostility against the West.”
However, the same article states that Iran is hard at work trying to find new ways to use its regional influence and the reach of its official media to “win propaganda battles and silence opposing views” in the Arab world.
Naturally, Tehran also continues to pursue the same project within its own borders, and an article in IranWire suggests that it may be having more success there than in the broader Middle East. IranWire contracted with Public Opinion Solutions LLC to conduct a survey of public opinion about the 2009 Green Movement, to mark six years since it launched nationwide protests against the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Among respondents to the telephone poll, 59 percent of people said that they did not believe there had been fraud in that election, and 40 percent said that the Green Movement had no right to publicly demonstrate. Of course, IranWire is quick to point out that these numbers likely reflect fear among some respondents about government reprisal for giving the wrong answer. And such fears would be well founded in the context of a telephone poll, given the Iranian regime’s extensive government monitoring and past reported incidences of security agents posing under false identities.
Still, some portion of the negative responses to these poll questions likely reflects the influence of Iran’s extensive propaganda networks. Yet this effect is surely also diminished by public resistance to that propaganda, as by recent protests and the familiar use of social media networks that are technically banned throughout the Islamic Republic.
Reuters also pointed out on Thursday that the families of persons who died in the Iran-Iraq War had expressed their own resistance to propaganda when the hardliners attempted to inject an overt political message into a reburial ceremony for a group of divers who had reportedly been buried alive by Saddam Hussein and were recovered just last month.
Meanwhile, in the midst of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States, the Obama administration has been increasingly subject to accusations that it is dispensing its own propaganda by ignoring Tehran’s behavior and maintaining a narrative of moderation and effective negotiations.
Naturally, overt criticism of that narrative has been comparatively stringent in the atmosphere of free speech in the US. Writing in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin claimed that the latest American concessions to Iran, namely the removal of requirements for disclosure of past military nuclear work, had set off a “firestorm of criticism” in American political circles.
Rubin’s conclusions reflect Iran News Update reports earlier this week noting that critical commentary about the nuclear talks and other points of Iran policy seemed to have seen an upsurge in the wake of last Saturday’s rally of the Iranian opposition in Paris.