Just wanted to describe a sort of scenario game I set up. I played the full 10 player map as IR, and filled all the AI with easy or normal IR, except for a Very Hard aggressive new republic, a very hard EotH aggressive, and a hard pentastar fortifiier. It ended up being very fun - a large powerful NR and EotH, a strong dug in pentastar, and a bunch of small squabbling IR factions - and me, of course, the true empire, reunifying the Galaxy. Good Star Wars role playing.
Really go hard out of your way to praise and reward your neighbors. You can absolutely turn a horribly negative opinion into an outright friendship with enough effort, and the AI generally won't warmonger you above -100 or so relation. Not on Easy, anyway.