American double-sided diplomacy in the Middle East can be dangerous
The American government policy in the Arab world has a double aspect that may be catching up with it. On one hand the official policy is to support democracy and representative government; this poses the Americans against the regimes in the Arab world where authentic representation scarcely exists. On the other hand, the Americans have a working relationship with the current dictators in the Arab world, so they are reluctant for these regimes to change. It is no secret that if there were honest elections in the Middle East none of those elected would be pro-American; in fact, one would have to be anti-American to get elected. So the American interest in the Middle East, despite the high-minded claims, is for the regimes in place to remain in power. By simply encouraging “all sides” to resolve their differences peacefully the American government is displaying its support for ruthless leaders in the Middle East — their responses to the demonstrations will display how ruthless they are.
This is a dangerous game. When Jimmy Carter was elected he was much admired by the young people of Iran because he initiated a policy of what he called “human rights.” The Shah regime had become broadly despised for its repressive policies and they hoped for Carter’s support against the Shah. But Carter went to Iran and claimed that the Shah was his friend, alienating the young people, indeed people from all elements of the society, from him. They turned against Carter, despised him. And when students took over the American Embassy they refused to release their hostages until Jimmy Carter was out of office. The Iranians believed they had driven Carter from office.
By claiming that all sides in the demonstrations in the Middle East should sit down and talk the American government may be losing whatever respect it still has in the Middle East.