A space to share stuff I like mostly about the Middle East, human rights and religion.
The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt caught the Obama administration off-guard, which is one of the reasons many analysts could claim that the Obama administration was flip-flopping and had no concrete policy. However, despite the change in tone over the days of the Egyptian and Tunisian uprising, there was a clear guiding policy, which is to support the side that appeared to be winning. Despite the fact that the rhetoric on Tunisia and Egypt was supposedly neutral before the protesters appeared to be winning, I think that not taking sides when a regime is killing its people means taking the side of the regime.
With regards to Egypt, at first when the Mubarak regime seemed stable, the attacks on protesters were not condemned and the administration urged all sides to show restraint. The administration changed its tone when the protests grew larger and Mubarak’s departure seemed imminent. However, when Mubarak kept clinging to his chair and the protests seemed to be waning (before Wael Ghonim’s release), the administration stopped calling for and immediate transition (which was always supposed to involve Omar Suleiman, Mubarak’s henchman). Once Mubarak resigned, Obama came out to give a stirring speech about the importance of freedom, democracy, people power, pointing out several times in his speech that the protests were peaceful.
I hope that the people of Egypt and Tunisia will not forget the US administration’s policy during their fight for freedom.
To illustrate my point, below are quotes from administration officials about Tunisia and Egypt, before and after the resignations of Ben Ali and Mubarak respectively. Highlights are mine.
“[T]his is a protest that has, unfortunately, provoked such a reaction from the government, leading to the deaths of mostly young people who were protesting. And, as I say, we are not taking sides, but we are saying we hope that there can be a peaceful resolution. And I hope that the Tunisian Government can bring that about. Secretary Hillary Clinton, January 11.
I condemn and deplore the use of violence against citizens peacefully voicing their opinion in Tunisia, and I applaud the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people. The United States stands with the entire international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights that we must all uphold, and we will long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their voices heard. President Barack Obama, February 14
“We urge that all parties exercise restraint and refrain from violence. But our assessment is that the Egyptian Government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” - Secretary Hillary Clinton, January 25
“We reiterate our call for all sides in Egypt to show restraint and avoid violence. Egypt’s path to democratic change must be peaceful.” State Department spokesman PJ Crowley, Feb 2
For the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change… We saw protesters chant “Selmiyya, selmiyya” — “We are peaceful” — again and again. President Barack Obama, February 11.
I originally posted this on MideastYouth.com