Ali al-Ahmed: ‘West dictatorial in foreign policy’
Interview With Ali Al-Ahmed director of Institute for (Persian) Gulf Affairs (IGA)
The United States dropped its support for embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the face of massive public opposition.
However, unlike its actions toward Egypt, Washington has backed Bahrain’s beleaguered king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Press TV has interviewed Ali al-Ahmed, director of Institute for (Persian) Gulf Affairs (IGA), from Washington to ask for his take on the US’s mixed stance on the recent uprisings in the Arab states.
Press TV: During the middle of the revolution in Egypt, the United States continued to send high-ranking members of the government, including Vice President Joe Biden, to Egypt. Now we see the same thing happening in other countries. In Libya, not only Americans, but now even a British special forces unit was arrested and released by the revolutionaries. Why are these countries trying to make contacts with these countries even before the new governments have been formed? What are they trying to do?
Ali al-Ahmed: They are trying to ensure their interests in these important countries. Libya and Egypt are so important in the eyes of the United States because the United States sees all these countries as part of its national security and they believe that any movement in those countries should not endanger the interests of the United States.
You saw Egypt, you saw the changing floating policy of the United States. They moved with the wind because the people in Egypt were able to topple Mubarak. They [American authorities] supported that too late, after it was realized that Mubarak is gone. But in the beginning, they were supporting Mubarak.
And in Libya, they are doing the same thing. They are making the same calculation. They want to make sure that they are not supporting a losing side. So they want to make sure they are supporting the winner, and it could be [Libyan ruler Muammar] Gaddafi. You don’t know it.
Press TV: How do you see the situation in general? The United States and the UK have been silent for decades and decades when these authoritarian governments have been in power. This is not something new. But the people are complaining about the oppression, the lack of human rights and dignity. These are not new complaints by these people. But we haven’t heard any outcry from Washington, London, or Paris up until this time. Why is that the case?
Ali al-Ahmed: The case is that these governments [the US, and the UK] might be democratic, elected by their people, but in foreign policy, they are extremely dictatorial. They are acting with a hegemonic mentality [according to which] other countries and other people are not worth their time. The only thing they have an interest in is to expropriate the wealth and resources of these countries.
I think part of it is also bigotry. The Western leaders, the policymakers in the West, see Arabs and Muslims — especially Arabs — as undeserving people, who do not really rise to the level of a human or a white person. So, they see us as very much like animals in a zoo. Even if you look today at CNN and its coverage, when they talk about Libya, they don’t have a Libyan person. This is what they call ‘cultural imperialism’. They talk about Libya, or Iran, or Iraq, and they don’t have a person in that country to talk about these issues.
And this is very common in the United States, and the National Security Council, which makes policy, and the media, and also the think tanks. So, they look at us very much from a tower of their own, and the foundation of the policy is that we are nothing to them but oil and resources.
The peoples’ rights and freedom are not their concern, even if they [American authorities] say so. But in reality, the United States has worked to support these dictators in the Middle East, given them aid, and admitted that. I was one of the people, who asked and I got the answer “yes, we help these dictators against their people — even those, who are human rights activists, by banning human rights activists from the United States and by putting them on terrorist lists.”
So, you see a consistent policy of the United States to oppose democratic freedoms for the people in the Arab world.
Press TV: Mr. Ahmed, you are sitting in Washington, so I want to pose this question you’ve just brought up. As far as the American political system and the perspective of Washington are concerned, how do you see the American people, themselves? What is happening right now in the Middle East and North Africa? Are they able to perhaps question how the [US] government has supported these authoritarian regimes for so long? How do you see the current perspective of the American people?
Ali al-Ahmed: Most American people are very sympathetic to the people in the region and their rights for freedom. However, the media here makes misleading statements. When they talk about Bahrain, for example, they say “Oh, this is an Iranian plot. This is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This is about Shias and Iran.” They talk about Yemen, [they say] it is about al-Qaeda.
The average American is not fully informed about the region. But the American people are, by large, supporting freedom and are very generous in giving aid to the people in the region, if they know.
And there are people who know and understand what is happening in the region, and they do oppose their government. However, the overwhelming majority are unaware and they are not in a position to change the policy of their government.