US President Donald Trump's administration has ratcheted up its "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran in recent months, raising concerns that the United States and Iran are on a path to war.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll published Tuesday, 64% percent of Americans — including a large majority of Republicans — support the 2015 deal designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief.
Amid the brewing tensions, 51% of respondents indicated that the United States and Iran would go to war within the next few years, up 8 percentage points from a poll last June.
Nearly half — 49% — of all Americans disapprove of how Trump is handling relations with Iran, the poll found, with 31% saying they strongly disapprove. Overall, 39% approve of Trump's policy.
At the same time, 54% of Americans view Iran as a "serious" or "imminent" threat.
US building up its military presence
In April, hardliners in the Trump administration pushed to label Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, despite warnings that the move could endanger US personnel in the Middle East. A month later the US restored all sanctions on Iranian oil exports.
Trump's national security adviser John Bolton in May made a show of an already scheduled US aircraft carrier group's deployment to the Persian Gulf and announced a B-52 bomber force would be sent to the region. Days later, the Pentagon added a Patriot missile defense battery and an amphibious assault ship to the deployment.
Iran has allegedly sabotaged oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and Yemen's Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels have carried out drone attacks on Saudi oil pumping stations amid US intelligence warnings that Iran or Iran-backed groups could threaten US interests.
Weighing up war options
Analysts say that provocative US moves could be perceived by Iran as a potential imminent military threat at a time when the US has already engaged in economic warfare.
Concern is growing that an incident — whether intentional, accidental or staged — could trigger an uncontrollable escalation into a devastating regional war.
If Iran attacked US military forces first, 79% of poll respondents said that the US military should retaliate: 40% preferred airstrikes on Iranian military targets, while 39% favored a full invasion.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted May 17-20 on a sample of roughly 1,007 adults in the United States. The sample includes 350 Democratic registered voters, 289 Republican registered voters, and 181 independent registered voters.