Prominent Middle East expert James Zogby tells Newsmax that support for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has "diminished significantly" and most of the country has abandoned him.
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Zogby is founder and president of the Arab American Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that serves as a political and policy research arm of the Arab-American community, and author of the book “Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us and Why it Matters.”
June 30 marks President Morsi’s first year in office, and Zogby, who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic studies, has just completed a new poll on Egyptian attitudes toward Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Zogby discusses the results of his poll.
"The support base of the current president has diminished significantly. When he was first elected, a majority of Egyptians were willing to give him a chance. He won the support of about 26 or so percent in terms of the overall electorate, but he had an additional group saying, 'He's the president, it's a democratic election, we have to support him.' That has now evaporated."
Overall support for Morsi once stood as high as 58 percent, "but now it's down to 28 percent of Egyptians who say either that we support him, or it's a democratic election and we have to go along with it," Zogby says.
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"Most disturbing is that the only people who do support him are those in the Muslim Brotherhood. The rest of the country has abandoned him and finds no confidence in his leadership at all."
The Tamarrod movement in Egypt is seeking to force Morsi to call for early presidential elections by collecting 1 million signatures and online registrations by June 30.
Asked if this opposition movement could bring about another Arab Spring in Egypt, Zogby observes: "We don't know, but certainly the hope of the Tamarrod movement leadership is that it will galvanize support and cause some change in the current dynamic.
"Right now what you have is a minority president seizing all the reins of power and actually repressing the press and repressing dissidents and overreaching in many ways.
"He has all the reins of power and there's no parliament. The only legislative body is controlled by his Muslim Brotherhood.
"People don’t know what they want to come out of this directly, whether they want the military to intervene or whether they want new elections. They just want change."
As to how most Egyptians view the opposition, Zogby tells Newsmax: "They're not supportive of the opposition overall. Forty percent of the population has no confidence in any of the political parties that currently exist.
"What the Tamarrod movement represents is the possibility of an effort to bring together the opposition and create a new political grouping.
"People want a national dialogue. The president hasn't been willing to give them that. They want to scrap the constitution, which was written by a hand-picked group of people, and they want to have a true constitution that represents all the people of Egypt.
"Across the entire region, you're entering the unknown. If what you want is stability, we had it. If you want democracy, we're getting it and it's not pretty, it's a little bit messy, and we don't know how it's going to play out.
"The Arab world right now is up in the air and that's what we're seeing with the Morsi victory, then one year later this Tamarrod movement which is challenging him, and who knows, the military may intervene."
The White House last week announced plans to arm Syrian rebels and is said to be looking into the possibility of a no-fly zone over Syria.
Assessing the Arab world's view of possible Western involvement in Syria's civil war, Zogby says: "There are those right now who are looking at the United States saying you haven't done anything to help and people are being slaughtered. And there’s a lot of anguish about this and it is affecting attitudes toward the United States.
"But let me tell you, the minute bombs start to fall, the minute the U.S. becomes directly engaged in this, if they do, you'll see people's attitudes turning on a dime" and they'll view America even more negatively.
But Zogby cautions that the administration "is right to be hesitant about how we get involved and what we do to get involved. There's no way that either side can win this Syria thing."
The only option that can work is a negotiated settlement somehow keeping the government intact, but creating a more open society, he adds. "There can't be a victor and there can't be a vanquished in Syria."
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Iranians just elected moderate cleric Hasan Rouhani, Iran's former top nuclear negotiator, as that country's next president. Asked if he sees Rouhani altering Iran's policy with Syria and how he expects he'll proceed with Iran's nuclear program, Zogby says: "The president in Iran is always on a short leash. The supreme leader is not called supreme leader for nothing. He is the top religious and political voice in the country. So this guy is moderate in tone and in style and he's won the support of moderates and reformists. How much he'll be able to do remains to be seen.
"We certainly will not have the nutty speeches of Ahmadinejad to kick around anymore," he says. "But certainly Iranian voters spoke and said we want a change and we do want reform."
Zogby also says he doubts Syria will spark a confrontation with Israel over the Golan Heights: "The Syrian government knows that if it did become a flashpoint, they would pay a very bitter price, and they're not willing to aggravate it militarily. But it's something we all have a right to be concerned about."
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