Thanks to Steve Walt for noting an important University of Maryland poll of Iranian attitudes toward its elected government and the nuclear impasse (full report). Contrary to the claims of neocons and their fellow travelers in the media, academia and the halls of the Israel lobby, Iranians appear generally to support the current government and its approach to nuclear enrichment and research. While some of the findings disappointed me, given the amount of actual polling that was done inside Iran and other measures taken to ensure accuracy, I reluctantly grant a good deal of credibility to the survey.
Perhaps the most hopeful result was this:
Some analysts have suggested that if the opposition were to gain power this would lead to fundamental changes in the Iranian posture toward the US. Focusing on those respondents who said they voted for Mousavi, as an approximation of the opposition,
PIPA found that a majority were ready to negotiate with the US on a number of issues, while the Iranian public as a whole was more divided. However, Mousavi supporters, like the general public, were quite negative in their views of the US government and were strongly committed to Iran’s nuclear program.
A majority of Mousavi supporters did favor diplomatic relations with the US, and were ready to make a deal whereby Iran would preclude developing nuclear weapons through intrusive international inspections in exchange for the removal of sanctions. However, this was equally true of the majority of all Iranians.
As Walt noted in his blog post, this provides an opening for resolving the current impasse: if the U.S. proposes full normalization of relations and removal of sanctions in return for an Iranian guarantee that it will not develop nuclear weapons–this should be a proposal the west could endorse.
So instead of the stupidity about sanctions and regime change, we need more reason and moderation in the form of this attitude expressed by the majority of Iranians according to this survey.