A recent public opinion survey of Turkish citizens has found that Turks consider not Iran but the U.S., followed by Israel, as their major national security threat. Joe Parkinson, a Wall Street Journal reporter, writes, “According to a wide-ranging survey carried out by the Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center in December, some 43% of Turks said they perceive the U.S. as the country’s biggest threat, followed by Israel, with 24%. Just 3% of those surveyed considered Iran a major threat”.
Given the absence of any military conflict between Iran and Turkey in the modern history and the relatively autonomous foreign policy orientation of Turkey under prime minister Erdogan, it should not come as a surprise that both Turkish citizens and political elites do not consider Iran as a security threat. These survey results also indicate that the relentless demonization of Iran by Western politicians and media and their characterization of Iran’s nuclear program as a serious threat to regional security have had no considerable impact on the attitude of Turkish citizens toward Iran. Turkey is a case in point in the region where the threat perception of its elites and its public largely converge. The release of these survey results also follow the decision of the Turkish government early last year to remove Iran from the list of countries that pose potential security concern to Turkey.
The relationship between elite and public threat perception in Turkey stands in sharp contrast to that in most Arab countries in the region. The threat perception of political elites in most Arab countries drastically diverges from that of their publics. While autocratic Arab rulers, as WikiLeaks-revealed documents indicate, hold a lop-sided perception of their national security threat and privately lobby the U.S. government for military action against Iran’s nuclear program, Arab masses hold diametrically opposite view of Iran’s role in the region . According to recent public opinion surveys, the overwhelming majority of Arab masses in the region do not consider Iran’s nuclear program and even, hypothetically speaking, a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to their national security. Increased democratic accountability and autonomous foreign policy orientation on the part of Arab political elites is expected to produce the same type of relationship between elite and public threat perception in those countries that exists in Turkey today. To read the full report on the recent survey of Turkish citizens, click here .