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Close ties with “autocratic” Gulf States reveal the “hypocrisy” of US foreign policy, Guardian paper contributor, Neil Clark, told RT, adding that Washington raises the democracy banner only when it wants to topple an unwanted government.
After his two-day trip to Egypt where opposition leaders refused to sit to the negotiation table with him, John Kerry, received a much more hospitable reception as he met up with the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The US Secretary of the State held talks with the region’s leaders in Saudi Arabia, before flying to the UAE and Qatar.
Journalist Neil Clark, who’s written extensively on the Middle East, believes the protest movement in Bahrain or Qatar will never receive backing from the US, like it did in Syria. Clark says true American interests lie in the field of oil and arms trade, but not promoting democracy and human rights.
RT:Some of the Gulf monarchies on Kerry’s talks list have come under severe criticism for repression on their turf – most notably Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – and yet these are some of America’s closest allies. How does this friendship sit with the US commitment to spreading democracy across the globe?
NC: It doesn’t sit at all, does it? I think it highlights a sort of glaring hypocrisy, which underlines the whole of US policy. And it’s very interesting to compare US policy towards Syria with that of Saudi Arabia. Because last February, the Syrian government announced a new democratic constitution that was going to allow a multi-party system, free elections and etc. And what was the US response? It denounced it as a sham: “President [Bashar] Assad is playing games.” It was dismissed entirely. And the Saudi’s haven’t gone anywhere near as much as that in terms of democratic reforms and yet the US has praised the Saudi Arabia. So, I think it shows – if you compare Syria and Saudi Arabia – the glaring hypocrisy of the US.
RT: While the US has been a vocal critic of human rights violations in Syria, Libya and many other states, it hasn’t raised the same level of alarm when it comes to crackdowns in Gulf nations. Why such a difference in approach?
NC: Oil contracts, arms deals…. The fact of the game is that when the US talks about spreading democracy what it really does is uses human rights violations as a pretext for an intervention and for trying to destabilize and topple regimes, which aren’t amenable enough to US interests. And we’ve seen classic examples of that down the ages. We saw that in 1999 in Kosovo where we were told there was genocide taking place against the Kosovar Albanians by the Yugoslavian authorities. That wasn’t true, but that was a pretext for the bombardment of the country, with the aim of bringing regime change, which happened in 2000. So we see that human rights democracy banner being held out by the Americans to kind of topple governments, which aren’t following the US line. When there are countries with, actually, a far worse record on democracy and human rights, like Saudi Arabia, given arms, have economic relationships with the US. So, it’s a completely different ball game with them.
RT: Besides such economic issues as oil and arms trade is there a wider geopolitical interest the US has in the Gulf region?
NC: Definitely, these autocratic Gulf states are the way, which the US has for decades maintained its control of this very strategically important region, having these kind of undemocratic leaders in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and etc. And, of course, now there’s a big problem as these autocratic regimes in the Gulf are coming under increasing popular pressure. And we see now quite clearly the hypocrisy of the US. Because these great promoters of democracy, when we see Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, are not siding with the protesters and opposition like they are in Syria. On the contrary, they are sending more military hardware to these countries and they are supporting clampdowns on the opposition.
RT: Given the calls for democratic change and growing public discontent in countries like Bahrain and Kuwait could the US shift its position the way it did in Egypt, where it, eventually, backed the uprising against its former-ally Hosni Mubarak?
NC: No, I don’t think so. The reason why is because Egypt was very different. Egypt is very dependent on the US economic aid and its financial assistance. So, that the US was confident if Mubarak goes, whoever would come into power would still be dependent on US money and the ‘brown envelope’ scenario, if you like. Whereas in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, for instance, it’s a different ball game as they’ve got vast oil reserves. So if the opposition or the new groups were to take power in those countries they would have their own natural resources. So would be naturally more economically independent of the US. And the US wouldn’t have a big hold on them. And the other factor is that the opposition in Bahrain and the other Gulf states is the Shiite opposition and these would be likely to be friendly with Iran, which will be the ultimate nightmare for the US.