In a recent interview with the BBC, Israel's deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor, who is also the country's Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, said that the prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons "...sends shivers of fear to all Arab countries." The assumption behind this statement is that "Arab states" see in Iran's nuclear program a threat to their national security. This might lead one to believe that Arab governments and publics would support, or at least not oppose, military measures against Iran.
But debate about a military strike against Iran to cripple its nuclear facilities cannot be conducted with the old mindset that shaped our views about the Arab Middle East before the seismic political changes introduced by the "Arab Spring" -- the mindset that equated "Arab states" with Arab governments and ruling families. Today, the transformation in the relationship between Arab governments and their constituencies ought to be strongly factored into any discussion of a military approach to the Iranian nuclear question.
To learn more about how Arabs view the threat that Iran poses to Arab national security and about nuclear weapons in the Middle East, the Doha Institute recently surveyed the publics in 12 Arab countries covering more than 85 percent of the total population of the Arab world. The survey, which was conducted from February to July 2011, consisted of more than 16,000 face-to-face interviews with representative samples in these countries, with a margin of error of 3.5 percent.