Americans view South Korea and Israel as two U.S. allies most likely to "embroil the US in an unnecessary, protracted and costly war." 36% of Americans believe South Korea is "most likely" while 28.5% of Americans believe Israel is "most likely." The US has security treaties with all countries in the survey except for Israel.
These results are based on an IRmep poll fielded through Google Analytics Solutions May 13-15 amidst growing saber-rattling over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un accuses the US and South Korea of constant overthrow attempts. The United States has approximately 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea. President Trump warned North Korea an "armada" was headed its way on April 11, though it was later revealed the USS Carl Vinson and its support ships were headed in the opposite direction. South Korea’s newly elected president opposed the recent deployment of a US supplied THAAD anti-ballistic missile system and favors a "sunshine policy" with North Korea. North Korea launched a ballistic missile 430 miles into the Sea of Japan near Russia on May 14. Rising tensions break with the relative calm during the Obama administration’s low key "strategic patience" policy.
American fears over Israel may be based on longer term developments. In April, Israel conducted strikes on Syrian targets that it claims were aimed at disrupting weapons transfers from Iran to Hezbollah. Israel’s years of threats to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities were only quelled by likely joint US-Israeli cyber-attacks that destroyed Iranian centrifuges and adoption of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The JCPOA verifies the Iranian nuclear program is not used to produce nuclear weapons.
Americans worrying that creeping US involvement in Syria is a proxy fight against Iran at Israel’s behest can point to some evidence. Leaked policy analysis from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email account asserted:
Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests…. Defense Minister Ehud Barak argued that "the toppling down of Assad will be a major blow to the radical axis, major blow to Iran…." Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted.
Belief that the US is attacking Syria and Iran to advance Israel builds on views that emerged since 2003. Many Americans believe that Israel and its US lobby were critical factors supporting the US invasion of Iraq to improve Israel’s strategic situation
Polling notes: The statistically-significant poll had an RMSE score of 2.2%. Individual responses are available online. Saudi Arabia was excluded from the poll because it appears to have already embroiled the US in an unnecessary, protracted and costly war in Yemen.
IRmep is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit researching US Middle East policy formulation.