By Sharmine Narwani
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seems to have a tough time grasping what kids on the streets of Cairo and Manama understand with ease. Politicians – elected and otherwise – have no place to hide. Their every turn of phrase, their every move, is digested in real-time across the planet. And there is no such thing as an unsophisticated populace any longer.
When Clinton dusted off the Iran Bogeyman and paraded him around the Senate Appropriations Committee hearings last Wednesday, the transparency of her actions was almost embarrassing – especially in light of a new Mideast strategy unveiled by the Wall Street Journal a few days later: “Regime Alteration,” as opposed to Regime Change.
The plan? To “help keep longtime allies who are willing to reform in power, even if that means the full democratic demands of their newly emboldened citizens might have to wait.”
After some heavy duty lobbying by Arab autocrats and Israel, US policymakers are trying a different tack: “Starting with Bahrain, the administration has moved a few notches toward emphasizing stability over majority rule,” said a U.S. official. “Everybody realized that Bahrain was just too important to fail.”
That means Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Morocco, Jordan and Algeria too. It is worth noting that had this policy been enacted prior to January 25, 2011 we would now be tuning in to Hosni Mubarak’s 16th I-am-not-resigning speech.
But how to silence the angry populations of key allies in the Persian Gulf, namely Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen? Rallying for more representation in government, a fair distribution of national wealth, freedom to congregate and speak freely – these are all legitimate concerns that we surely defend as a matter of principle?
Drag out the “Evil Iran” card, apparently.
Conceding that “Iran has no relations with the opposition, and in some cases are in an adversary relationship with Sunni Muslim Brotherhood groups,” Secretary Clinton told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic is nonetheless “doing everything they can to influence the outcomes in these places.”
And this is the convoluted reasoning we are to follow:
“We know that, through their proxy, Hezbollah in Lebanon, they are using Hezbollah – which is a political party with an armed wing – to communicate with counterparts in Egypt, in Hamas, who then, in turn, communicate with counterparts in Egypt. We know that they are reaching out to the opposition in Bahrain. We know that they – the Iranians are very much involved in the opposition movements in Yemen. So, either directly or through proxies, they are constantly trying to influence events. They have a very active diplomatic foreign policy outreach.”
Pot Calling the Kettle Black
Clinton’s statements were made on the same day that the The USS Ponce and USS Kearsarge warships entered the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Libya, laden with military equipment and hundreds of marines.
All this within a year of the news that the US would deploy Patriot Missiles in five of the six Arab nations of the Persian Gulf “to counter Iran (and) assuage Israel,” a country that threatens to bomb the Islamic Republic at regular intervals.
Given our provocations in Iran’s neighborhood, it is extraordinary that we charge Tehran with trying to influence regional events. But despite Clinton’s allegations of Iranian intervention in the affairs of neighboring states, the WikiLeaks Cables tell an entirely different story: (more…)