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New poll: Iran considered far and away America's #1 geopolitical foe

This year's presidential election has featured a long-running feud about which countries represent America's most dangerous foes (Iran? Russia? China?) and most treasured allies (Great Britain? Israel?) -- and how to characterize nations that occupy the murky middle ground between these two extremes.

On Thursday, the nonpartisan Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) released a poll that infuses some data into the debate, and the findings are particularly relevant in light of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu's U.N. speech yesterday on red lines for Iran's nuclear program.

We know from several recent surveys that many Americans believe Iran poses a grave danger to the United States (a CNN/ORC poll in April, for example, found that concern about Iran today is more widespread than concern about the Soviet Union in 1985). But most of these surveys have asked respondents to assess the severity of the Iranian threat (in the case of the CNN/ORC poll, alongside the threats posed by North Korea, Russia, and Syria).

FPI took a different approach, asking participants an open-ended question: "If you had to single out one country, which country do you think presents the most danger to American national security interests today?" The results are unequivocal. Forty-five percent of respondents selected Iran. China, the distant runner-up, clocked in at 8 percent, with Afghanistan right behind at 6 percent (Russia, which Mitt Romney once called "America's number one geopolitical foe," mustered a mere 1 percent). More than 60 percent of respondents supported preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons even if that meant using U.S. military force -- a finding that tracks with previous surveys. When it comes to America's geopolitical enemies, Iran and its nuclear program are clearly top of mind.

Even with these results, however, it's unclear how seriously Americans take threats from other nations these days. When FPI asked participants what represented the "largest threat to American national security interests today," for example, only 3.5 percent chose Iran -- well behind "terrorists" (17 percent), "Barack Obama/admin" (8 percent), and several other answers. Yes, you read that right: more respondents selected Obama than Iran.

The survey contains lots of other interesting findings. In another open-ended question about "America's best ally," 54 percent of respondents mentioned Great Britain and 16 percent cited Israel. Those who feel the country is headed in the wrong direction tended to have an unfavorable view of China, suggesting, in part, that concern about American decline goes hand-in-hand with wariness about China (it may also simply mean that those who are worried about China also oppose Obama). And nearly half of respondents view Greece favorably, even though Romney has used the country as a punching bag on the campaign trail (typical sound bite: "I think you're going to see America on the road to Greece unless we change course"). The poll is worth checking out in full here.

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NYC’s transit authority changes advertising standards in wake of anti-Islam ads

The New York Times reported today that New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority voted 8-0 to change its rules on what advertising it will accept after the furor created by Pamela Geller's anti-Islam ads. Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, won a court case last month, compelling the MTA to post her ads, which read, "In the war between civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad."

A wave of public outrage over the ads, which were posted in New York City subway stations, has lead to incidents of vandalism, with activists and angry citizens defacing the posters. On Tuesday, Egyptian-American activist and journalist Mona Eltahawy was arrested for defacing one of the ads with pink spray paint.

Ostensibly in response to the vandalism, the MTA stated that they would, from now on, prohibit advertising which "would incite or provoke violence or other immediate breach of the peace, and so harm, disrupt, or interfere with safe, efficient, and orderly transit operations." Geller's ads won't be taken down just yet, since the rule change doesn't apply  ads that are currently posted; however, the new guidelines might prevent her from renewing them once they have expired.  The new rules will also require that all ads featuring political, religious, or moral expressions prominently feature a disclaimer stating that the MTA does not endorse the views expressed.

Protestors at the committee meeting held signs reading "The subway belongs to the 99 percent. Take the racist ads down." According to the New York Times, Geller attended the meeting and urged MTA officials to "have the courage of your convictions." She was "repeatedly shouted down."

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