BEIRUT

Editorial

Phoney indignation

Islamic State militants embrace in celebration after taking over Tabqa air base near Raqqa city August 24, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Last August, Washington put the Middle East on a war footing in the wake of a chemical weapons attack on the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus which killed hundreds of people. In the end, Moscow offered its ally the Syrian regime a way to escape punishment, by relinquishing its chemical weapons.

This August, when ISIS militants beheaded a U.S. journalist, captured in Syria, a similar global response has emerged, about the sudden need to take firm action.

In fact, Washington had already taken firm action, by launching airstrikes in northern Iraq to stem military advances by ISIS that came uncomfortably close to the autonomous Kurdish region and U.S. interests there.

The U.S. has acted in Syria and Iraq only when it believes its direct interests are at stake, and not out of concerns about the targeting of ethnic minorities or the daily stream of massive human rights violations, or out of a genuine desire to promote stability and democracy in the region.

While the U.S. is perfectly within its rights to act on the basis of sheer self-interest, it shouldn’t be surprised when people in this region have little reason to offer support for its policies. It’s a case of leading on the cheap, or in other words doing the absolute minimum and expecting others to offer the maximum level of support in return.

In a further irony, U.S. officials are expecting sympathy with their “plight” in Iraq and Syria, after they called the murder of James Foley a terrorist attack on the United States.

Their case would have been helped tremendously if they had acted just as forcefully when terror threatened Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians or Iraqis, instead of focusing on a given victim’s passport.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 25, 2014, on page 7.

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Summary

In fact, Washington had already taken firm action, by launching airstrikes in northern Iraq to stem military advances by ISIS that came uncomfortably close to the autonomous Kurdish region and U.S. interests there.

The U.S. has acted in Syria and Iraq only when it believes its direct interests are at stake, and not out of concerns about the targeting of ethnic minorities or the daily stream of massive human rights violations, or out of a genuine desire to promote stability and democracy in the region.


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