Iranian Opinion of U.S. Remains Stable

A new Gallup poll out today finds that the majority of Iranians are bracing for the latest round of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe, while nearly half are already struggling economically. News of the financial hardships has the New York Times worrying the U.S. is breeding resentment in Iran:

Yet this economic burden is falling largely on the middle class, raising the prospect of more resentment against the West and complicating the effort to deter Iran’s nuclear program — a central priority for the Obama administration in this election year.

Not to completely diminish concerns about anti-Western resentment, but in terms of Iranian public opinion, the U.S. can’t fare much worse than it already is. Today’s Gallup survey found that just 8 percent of Iranians approve of U.S. leadership, and 7 percent approve of U.K. leadership – numbers that have remained relatively flat since last year. There’s not much room for the West to drop (though it should also be noted that it is notoriously difficult to gauge the accuracy of public opinion polling in totalitarian societies).

And concerns over Iranian resentment aren’t enough of an argument for the West to retrench, especially when the latest sanctions already appear to be having the desired effect among the ruling class. The Times reports:

The rising economic panic has illustrated — and possibly intensified — the bitter divisions within Iran’s political elite. A number of insiders, including members of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, have begun openly criticizing Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in recent weeks. One of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s aides indirectly accused Ayatollah Khamenei of needlessly antagonizing the West in ways that pushed down the rial’s value, the latest sign of a rift between the president and the supreme leader that is helping to define the parliamentary elections, which are scheduled for March 2.

With the Iranian parliamentary elections coming up next month, obviously there’s hope for a more successful rerun of the protest movement in 2009. While a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would likely only delay the regime’s quest for nukes, the only long-term solution is regime change, and sanctions will play a big role in getting there.