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US Public and Sanctions (NYT-23 Apr. 00)

Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company   
The New York Times 
April 23, 2000, Sunday, Late Edition - Final 

SECTION: Section 1; Page 7; Column 1; Foreign Desk  
LENGTH: 742 words 
HEADLINE: Americans Of Two Minds On Sanctions, A Poll Finds 
   The more Americans know about the world, the more likely they are to favor diplomacy over 
punitive sanctions in dealing with troublesome foreign countries, a poll has found. Embargoes, they 
say, not only isolate the nations at which they are aimed but also hurt American business. 

When Americans lack information about a country, or when their leaders do not adequately publicize 
and explain their policy thinking, many fall back on long-established stereotypes of "bad" and 
"good" nations, the poll found. Judgments about how to deal with those nations are then made on 
those images. 

The survey -- by First International Resources, a business consulting group, and the polling 
organization Penn, Schoen & Berland -- was done in two parts for the sake of comparison. A national 
sample of 995 average voters was made first, and then 176 knowledgeable "elites" working in 
government, academic life and research institutes were surveyed. 

The full poll results are expected to be made public next week. The survey, based on interviews 
from Feb. 28 to March 21, focused primarily on attitudes toward economic sanctions on Iran, but 
when respondents were asked to name "good" and "bad" countries, the findings suggest that the 
attitudes apply to sanctions policy toward other nations. 

Respondents in the general public knew very little about Iran and the recent political changes 
there, including gains by moderates in parliamentary elections. Only 15 percent of them had heard 
about advances by Iranians who advocate reform; only 2 percent knew of the 1997 election of a more 
moderate Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami. Among more knowledgeable people, 58 percent had heard 
about the shifts toward moderation. 

Both groups, however, were still instinctively unfavorable to Iran, based on its reputation for 
support of terrorism and Islamic militancy. Only Iraq outranked it on the enemies' list among the 
general population. But the elite respondents were far more likely to say that Iran had changed -- 
they ranked Serbia, Libya and Iraq as worse cases -- and that Iranian moderates should be helped. 
These more knowledgeable people also said that sanctions got in the way of dialogue with Iran. 

"Both the general public and the elites believe it is extremely important to keep channels of 
communication open with countries like Iran," the poll concluded, "and that penalizing or isolating 
rogue countries is not the way to get them to change." 

Sanctions have been a major policy tool of the Clinton administration, whether imposed by the 
United States alone or through the United Nations. Other nations, including American allies in 
Europe, have been critical of long-running embargoes and other sanctions, saying that they rarely 
hurt dictators but can harm ordinary people. They also get in the way of international business, or 
create tensions when the United States tries to force other nations to adhere to its own trade and 
investment restrictions. 

Recently, an American embargo on Iran was eased to allow for importing certain goods like caviar, 
pistachios and Persian carpets -- a move of which 6 of 10 poll respondents in the general public 
were unaware. Sports exchanges that have taken place drew universal support in the poll, and 77 
percent of average voters and 90 percent of the elite respondents said sanctions should be lifted 
if Iran responded favorably to an initial easing of the embargo. 

In Congress, a small but widening movement is questioning the long-term value of inflexible 
embargoes. There are concerns that in Iraq, for example, a decade of sanctions may be strengthening 
the hand of Saddam Hussein while causing unacceptable hardships to the Iraqi people. 

Representative Tony P. Hall, Democrat of Ohio, was in Iraq last week to assess the cumulative 
effects of the comprehensive sanctions imposed in 1990 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. He is 
expected to announce the results of his trip today. 

The new poll found that while Americans continued to think that sanctions should remain a tool of 
foreign policy and that big business would from time to time have to make sacrifices because of 
embargoes, respondents in both groups preferred sanctions to be imposed through international 

They also expressed concern about the use of sanctions if American jobs were at risk, and when 
presented with facts about American losses, were more likely to want sanctions lifted, or at least 

LOAD-DATE: April 23, 2000

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