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WASHINGTON: The conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran is likely to further widen an existing sectarian divide in the Middle East, pitting Muslims against Muslims, warns a US survey released on Thursday.

The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre shows that in Jordan, a predominantly Sunni country, 78 per cent of the public have a favourable view of Saudi Arabia, compared with only 8 per cent who have a positive opinion of Iran.

In the Palestinian territories, where again Sunnis predominate, about half — 51pc — have a favourable view of Saudi Arabia.

Here, there is a split by location. Among Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, 60pc have a positive opinion of Saudi Arabia, compared with 46pc among West Bank residents.

Meanwhile, only 34pc in the Palestinian territories express a positive opinion of Iran, with more support coming from the West Bank (40pc) than from Gaza (24pc).

Overall, 48pc in Lebanon have a favourable view of Saudi Arabia versus 41pc who like Iran. However, as is usually the case in Lebanon, opinion is divided among three main religious groups in the country: Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims.

An overwhelming number of Sunni Lebanese have a favourable view of Saudi Arabia (82pc), while Iran’s favourability among Sunnis sits at 5pc.

An even greater divide exists among the Lebanese Shia population, with 95pc saying they like Iran, while only 3pc say the same about Saudi Arabia.

Christians in Lebanon tend to have more favourable views of Saudi Arabia (54pc) than Iran (29pc).

In two other Middle Eastern nations surveyed, there is little support for either Saudi Arabia or Iran. In Turkey, around two-in-ten have favourable views of each power.

And in Israel, even fewer like Riyadh (14pc) or Tehran (5pc). In Israel, the Arab population is about as positive toward Saudi Arabia (37pc favourable) as it is Iran (34pc), despite the fact that the Israeli Muslim population is predominantly Sunni.

Jews in Israel, however, have little regard for Saudi Arabia (10pc favourable) or for Iran — for which there is little per cent favourability among Israeli Jews.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2016

Comments (17) Closed

Khan Jan 08, 2016 07:46am

Neither the house of saud nor the khomeinis are well wishers of the humanity in general and muslims in particular.....they have made iraq, syria, yemen hell for the common man.....even pakistan is not safe from their proxy wars....As somebody very nicely said that those loving al saud should to go saudi and those loving the khomeinis should go to iran and leave this troubled country in some peace....

Haroon Jan 08, 2016 08:18am

They are many so called Patriotic Iranians and Saudis live in Pakistan. It is my request to both types of crowd to leave us alone. If you cannot think about Pakistan first then leave for your country of interest ( Iran or Saudia) and Leave Us Alone. No sectarian rife should be tolerated in Pakistan. Country first, everything second.

Naseer Karcahi Jan 08, 2016 08:58am

And that is what US exactly wants. divide Muslims and US has found none other than Iran for this job. But to the US disappointment, Iran is badly exposed already and everyone knows who is behind Iran and who is going to benefit from it. Sadly Iran being used.

ayazali Jan 08, 2016 09:28am

The only solution to create the peace and hormony in the muslim ummah is end to shia sunni conflict ....

Skeptic Jan 08, 2016 11:10am

@ayazali Yes, everybody knows that.

Yet you didn't offer any solution as to HOW to end the conflict.

Realist Jan 08, 2016 11:16am

One does not need a poll to verify this. Interesting statistics though that only confirm the obvious.

Feroz Jan 08, 2016 12:00pm

And we need a Pew Survey to tell us that sectarian conflict is forecast. Wonderful !

M.Saeed Jan 08, 2016 01:24pm

Who is the end beneficiary of all this dividing-weakening war within the faith?

Nadim Jan 08, 2016 01:44pm

Even more interesting would be to find out how many of Pakistan's Shias are loyal to Iran over Pakistan and Wahabis loyal to Saudi Arabia over Pakistan.

M.Saeed Jan 08, 2016 02:17pm

Pakistan must play the role of patching the unfortunate rift which only gladdens the enemies.

Patrick Jan 08, 2016 02:19pm

@Feroz i hold the West responsible for this sectarian divide

Mahmood Jan 08, 2016 03:27pm

This subject had to be 'researched by a think-tank'?

We knew this before anyone had heard of Pew!

Real Pakistani Jan 08, 2016 04:00pm

@Nadim . Lets just hope that we Pakistanis favour Pakistan over other countries. Although, as Mecca and Medina are in Saudi Arabia, probably Saudi Arabia will have more support than Iran.

Abdul Jan 08, 2016 04:48pm

OIC must play its alive role to end political difference in the Muslim world

Iftikhar Husain Jan 08, 2016 05:56pm

Centuries old problem of this devide has come up in prominence lately it has been created by the enemies who are aware of the weakness of {slamic people. This fire will go a long way unless some sense is created by the defender of faith.This fire would engulf the entire world and the prople who have created will also suffer which is happenning now.

berni Jan 09, 2016 06:54am

This research will be used to help USA make some important decisions.

Kamz Jan 09, 2016 09:35pm

Clearly the problem is Saudi Arabia, from the leaked wikileaks files, you can clearly see Saudi Arabia is trying to expand it's sphere of influence, with madrassas and look at what good that has brought us here in Pakistan. I have no problems with SA, as long as they keep their ideology out of our country, we simply do not want more Sharia law. The SA economy is in freefall their eating into their reserves at unprecedented rates. The deficit is at 100 billion USD, and oil prices are are falling. SA failed policy of trying to make US Shale companies go out of business isnt working, they can switch production quickly. The new King of SA isn't qualified he is single handedly bring about the downfall of SA. India, USA and many other countries are moving away from the Saudis. And once fracking states in the UK, the Saudis will be in deep trouble, not to mention China will buy oil from Iran and Russia, once the pipeline is complete. Saudi petro dominance is coming to an end.