A majority of Americans do not want Israel to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, and believe that Iran could rebuild its nuclear program in less than five years if it were attacked, according to a new University of Maryland poll.
Iran says its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes, but suspicion over what Iran is doing has stirred debate about launching an attack. The U.S. says it will stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but Israeli officials say a military strike would be justified if Iran is seen to be gaining the capability to make them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently expressed doubt that sanctions or diplomacy would work. “None of us can afford to wait much longer,” he told a pro-Israel audience this month.
To gauge how Americans felt about an attack, more than 700 people were polled about whether they believed that Israel should strike Iran to stop its nuclear program. Only 1 in 4 favored the idea.
“Americans think a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program is not likely to produce much benefit or to be low in cost,” the University of Maryland Anwar Sadat Chair and the Program on International Policy Attitudes found. “Less than half believe that a strike would weaken the Iranian government.”
Less than 1 in 5 polled thought that an Israeli strike would delay Iran from developing nuclear capabilities for more than five years. Only 1 in 7 thought the U.S. should encourage Israel to strike.
Instead, 69% of the Americans who were polled said the U.S. should continue to pursue negotiations with Iran, with a large majority saying it should act primarily through the United Nations Security Council.
The same researchers polled 500 Israelis this year and found that 19% said Israel should strike Iranian nuclear facilities even if the U.S. did not back them, 42% said it should strike only if it got American support, and 34% said it shouldn’t strike. Israelis had similar doubts that a strike would delay Iran for long.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Bob Kunst, right, protests against a nuclear Iran in front of the White House, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting March 5, 2012. Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images