Sham U.S. ‘concern’

A Peshmerga fighter flashes the sign for victory next to the remains of a car, bearing an image of the trademark jihadist flag, which reportedly belonged to Islamic State (IS) militants after it was targeted by an American air strike in the village of Baqufa, north of Mosul, on August 18, 2014. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

American officials periodically speak of their “concern” over events in Iraq and Syria, whether the horrific human toll in lives, or the threats to regional and international stability.

But a review of Washington’s behavior in August 2013 and August 2014 reveals what the U.S. is truly concerned about.

A chemical weapons attack near Damascus prompted vigorous diplomatic action, which quickly encouraged the Syrian regime to give up its chemical weapons stockpiles. And when ISIS extremists threatened to approach U.S. interests in and around the Iraqi town of Irbil, Barack Obama promptly authorized airstrikes.

If Washington and its allies are at all interested in why people in this part of the world don’t harbor a great deal of trust in the periodical expressions of concern and outrage uttered by politicians and diplomats, and all of their talk of democracy, development, human rights and other matters, all they have to do is sit down and ponder the events of these two Augusts.

The White House is certainly entitled to act on the basis of national interest, but the problem is that this interest boils down to a few items on a list – chemical weapons, a U.S. consulate, or relations with a particular community, such as the Kurds of Iraq.

This behavior highlights how the U.S. – which aspires to remain a superpower – lacks any underlying vision of foreign policy or relations with the peoples of Syria or Iraq; it’s just about a few red lines, which are quite limited in scope and quite selectively determined.

At the outset of his presidency, Obama spoke about transforming America’s relations with the Arab and Muslim worlds, but his policies are only piling up one negative, harmful chapter after another.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 19, 2014, on page 7.




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