By Bruce Stokes, Director of Global Economic Programs, Pew Research Center

Special to Foreign Policy

The Obama administration’s concern about extremists prevailing in the Syrian civil war and its desire to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gone are views that are widely shared in the Middle East. But the administration’s ideas for how to deal with the Syrian situation are not, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. As Barack Obama’s administration decides what to do about Syria, the White House must be careful not to confuse the region’s support for its ends — removing Assad and preventing extremists from taking power — with Middle Eastern approval for its means — that is, stepping in to provide support for the Syrian opposition.

In his West Point commencement speech in late May, Obama made an argument about the state of the Middle East — one that, poll results show, many in the region would agree with: “As the Syrian civil war spills across borders, the capacity of battle-hardened extremist groups to come after us only increases,” he said.

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