American priorities in Iran... vs. elsewhere

As many of you know, the nasty regime in Iran has repressed a return of the Green Movement on the streets yesterday, and now pro-regime MPs are even calling for opposition figures to be hanged. Meanwhile, protests were also brutally suppressed in Bahrain, Yemen and Algeria — respectively an absolute monarchy, a largely failed state and an incredibly brutal military dictatorship. In Jordan, another absolute monarch with one of the most feared and brutal security services in the region is also facing protests. Yet it's Iran that gets all the attention:
Mon, 14 Feb 2011 18:53:55 -0600

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that – what has guided us throughout the last three months and guides us in terms of how we focus on Iran is the core principles – the Secretary mentioned them again today – of restraint from violence, respect for universal rights, and political and social reform. There is a – it is hypocrisy that Iran says one thing in the context of Egypt but refuses to put its own words into action in its own country.

QUESTION: How about other countries – Bahrain, Yemen, or Algeria, or Jordan? Why you are not talking about those countries and you are condemning what is happening in Iran? 

MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually, in the other countries there is greater respect for the rights of the citizens. I mean, we are watching developments in other countries, including Yemen, including Algeria, including Bahrain. And our advice is the same. As the Secretary made clear in her Doha speech, there’s a significant need for political, social, and economic reform across the region, and we encourage governments to respect their citizen’s right to protest peacefully, respect their right to freedom of expression and assembly, and hope that there will be an ongoing engagement, a dialogue between people in governments, and they can work together on the necessary forms.

It's fine for the US to criticize Iran, but the other countries — in all of which the US has consequent military, intelligence and/or economic interests — surely deserve a mention too. What just happened in Egypt should have taught Washington a lesson about client-patron relationships in a dysfunctional region, but obviously some are slow on the uptake.

[Thanks, Nadia.]

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.