Media question West's "double standards" in Arab unrest

As rebel forces backed by Western coalition air strikes battled for advantage in fierce fighting with Libyan government troops, voices questioning the West's "selective policy" in dealing with unrest in different countries in the Arab world became louder.

The United States, France, and Britain wasted no time in launching air and missile strikes on Libya just one day after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution mandating a no-fly zone in the North African country.

Apart from measures to set up the no-fly zone, coalition forces also have pounded armored vehicles, the heavy artillery of Libyan government forces, and a residential compound occupied by leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"The coalition has taken sides. It's only targeting Gaddafi's forces, including those that aren't in direct action against the rebels. We have reports of air strikes against convoys far from the front line. This is a far cry from the U.N. Security Council resolution," said Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to NATO.

Russia, which abstained in the U.N. vote that sanctioned the military operation, has been voicing concern about civilian casualties and excessive use of force since the operation began.

Records showed that more than 100 civilians have been killed in the coalition bombardments declared to protect innocent Libyan people.

A sharp contrast to what took place in Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates sent troops to quell opposition street protests in Bahrain.

The double standard is obvious in the Saudi behavior, said an article on the CNN website.

"In the eyes of many Arabs in the region, a deeply troubling Western double standard is emerging," said Omer Taspinar, a professor at the U.S. National War College and director of the Turkey Project at the Brookings Institution.

According to Taspinar, many in the region are asking a simple question: Why is the West willing to intervene in Libya, while there is total Western silence about Bahrain?

In countries like Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, they accept or actively support constitutional changes, but in other Arab countries, like Bahrain, the rights of citizens are secondary to wider energy and security needs, Taspinar cited an analyst from Lebanon as saying.

Chanting its universal values, "the United States has often been unable or unwilling to live up to the values it preaches," said Bernd Debusmann, a Reuters columnist.

So why Libya and not Yemen or Bahrain, asked Debusmann.

"Here is where lofty talk of universal values collides with self-interest," he said.

Debusmann cited a speech by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a 2005 speech in Cairo: "For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy ... here in the Middle East."

Debusmann went on to explain U.S. favor for the current Yemeni President Ali Abudullah Saleh by quoting a recently disclosed cable from the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital that said "Saleh has provided Yemen with relative stability."

U.S. President Barack Obama has left "more questions than answers about his emerging 'Obama doctrine and what it means for other crisis in the Middle East,'" Reuters writer Matt Spetalnick wrote about the president's speech Monday night.

"Embedded in Obama's televised response to critics of his Libya policy on Monday night was an attempt to set forth his rationale for intervening militarily in some conflicts but not in others," Spetalnick said.

Obama fell short of even mentioning Yemen, Syria or Bahrain, the latest hotspots of chaos in the Arab world, observed Spetalnick.

Obama is trying to "stake out a middle ground" on wider Middle East policy, said Spetalnick. The obscurity has already drawn a lot of criticism from the left and the right at home, he said.

[Source: Xinhua, Brussels, 30Mar11]

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