Despite labeling Iran’s nuclear program as a “critical threat” to U.S. interests, a clear majority of Americans oppose a military strike against Tehran and support a policy of UN sanctions and diplomatic dialogue.

The new annual poll published this week by the Chicago Council for Global Affairs on American attitudes towards foreign affairs – dubbed “Foreign Policy in the New Millennium” - found that 70% of Americans oppose a strike on Iran that is not authorized by the UN Security Council, and 51% are opposed even if the UN body does sanction the attack. In addition, 59% of Americans are opposed to US intervention on behalf of Israel in case of Iranian retaliation for a preemptive Israeli attack.

On the other hand, 79% of Americans believe that further sanctions should be applied on Tehran through the UN Security Council, and 67% believe that the U.S. government should engage in direct diplomacy with the regime in Tehran.

The poll shows solid support of close to 60% for maintaining or increasing current aid levels to Israel. On the other hand, when asked what position the U.S. should take in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 30% said that Washington should side with Israel, but 65% said that it should remain neutral.

The poll also confirms a growing partisan divide between Republicans, Democrats and Independents concerning Israel and the Middle East, with the former showing increasing support for Israeli positions. Thus, 51% of Republicans want America to support Israeli positions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, compared to 78% of Democrats and 69% of independents that prefer to remain neutral. Similarly, 54% of Republicans want to see America intervene militarily in an Israeli-Iranian confrontation, compared to 66% of Democrats and 65% of independents who would prefer that America stay out.

In general, the poll shows a shift in American attitudes towards global affairs in the 11 years that have passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. While still viewing the Middle East, international terrorism and rogue nuclear powers as the greatest threats to U.S. interests around the world, Americans are less inclined than before to support military intervention in order to counter the threat.

In broad strokes, the poll seems to indicate general support for many of President Barack Obama’s foreign policies, and may be viewed as indirect confirmation of the advantage that Obama holds over Republican Mitt Romney in most polls in handling foreign policy and national security affairs.

Thus, while a majority of Americans support diplomatic sanctions (63%) and imposing a no-fly zone against Syria, 67% oppose sending arms to Syrian rebels, 72% oppose aerial attacks and 81% oppose sending ground troops. 67% of Americans think that the war in Iraq “was not worth it” and only 30% believe that the war in Afghanistan made America “more safe from terrorism”. 70% believe that the wars worsened America’s relations with the Muslim world.

The full report of the poll, which encompassed 1877 interviewees, can be found at Chicago Council poll

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