President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is acting like a bratty child in class who seeks to cause trouble to get attention, founder and president of the Arab American Institute tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
And the country may not even want nuclear weapons as much as it wants "bragging rights of having the program that defied the West,” he said.
Now Zogby, author of the book "Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us and Why It Matters," believes it’s vital that the United States has a balanced reaction to any provocative rhetoric coming from Tehran.
"If you’ve got a kid who always wants attention and wants to be the troublemaker — who gets you going — don’t give into him and give him what he wants," he said
Watch our exclusive interview. Story continues below.
“Engagement is good, but isolating them is better and not giving them the (notion) that they’re playing on an even field. That’s what they want and that’s what we shouldn’t give them,” Zogby told Newsmax TV.
“They’re like a little bug. Let them go and be irritating. Isolate them if we can and make it more difficult to proceed with this agenda, hopefully turn people against them which seems to be working right now. But certainly, don’t give them bragging rights again as standing up against the West,” Zogby said.
Zogby said another important task for President Barack Obama is properly handling the Israeli-Palestinian issue during his trip to the Middle East this month.
“My hope is that while we’re advertising this as a listening tour, he’ll be a little firm on some of the settlement issues,” Zogby said. “I wouldn’t be surprised at all if on the day of his departure, (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu announces more settlement constructions.”
Zogby believes Netanyahu has a similar motive to the Iranians in regard to the way he deals with the U.S., which is to show he’s standing tall and firm against the West. He said the Israeli government has regularly shown it will use any visit by an American leader as a vehicle to announce a new strategy that defies the West.
“That’s not a good thing and we shouldn’t give into that either. We’ll see how the trip plays out, but so far (Secretary of State John) Kerry’s trip has gone well,” he said. “I hope the president will stay the course on the direction he’s moving in right now.”
James and his brother John have been regularly conducting polls in the region for more than a decade. He said that Iran was once viewed much more favorably in the region, with its overall approval rating in the Middle East as high as 80 percent in 2006. However, over time, Zogby said the polling began to change in tandem with American policies in Iraq, leading him to conclude that the responses weren’t as much about how people felt about Iran as much as it was anger against the West for its policies in the region.
“As the Obama administration has lowered the American profile in the region, softened our touch and working, as critics here call it, ‘leading from behind,’ people in the region like it,” he said. “It has shined a light on Iran’s behavior in Bahrain, Iraq and, more decisively, in Syria.
"People are now worried about Iran as a destabilizing force in the region. There was once support for Iran’s nuclear program standing up against the West. Today, there is virtually no support for that nuclear program.”
Finally, he said the best course both the United States and Israel could take to further alienate Iran from others in the region would be to stay on the sidelines.
“What has caused their isolation in the region is shining the light on their behavior, the U.S. playing less of a role and Israel being kind of dealt out of the picture,” he said. “The key thing we’ve learned here is Iran is isolating itself and the region is moving against Iran and supporting sanctions. The lower profile (Of the U.S.) is actually paying off and changing that dynamic would be a disaster and a gift to the Iranians.”
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