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A Lesson from Profit-Seeking Approach of the US Foreign Policy

Monday, June 4, 2012

Alireza Salehi
Expert on International Issues

Recent popular uprisings in the Middle East and the US approach to these developments bring a basic proposition to one’s mind. US intervention in other countries confirms this principle that national interests constitute the foremost and the most important criterion for assessing performance of the United States foreign policy. Although this may seem obvious in the first glance, viewpoints expressed by two groups – which mostly stem from their lack of due attention to this issue – make its discussion both meaningful and useful. These two groups, which belong to totally different spectrums, raise ideas which show they have not paid enough attention to the principle that national interests have the first say in the US foreign policy.

The first group, which consists of people who are critics of the status quo in their respective societies, is too attached to US slogans about advocating democracy and human rights. In fact, they ignore this fact that defending human rights and democracy has never been the main concern of the United States and has been only used as an instrument to meet that country’s interests. The short history of the United States is the most important evidence to this claim, examples of which will be given below. The second group comprises people who are critical of the US foreign policy and oppose it. The lion’s share of their criticism is justified. However, the way they raise their criticism and their inability to explain the main reason behind the United States policies shows that they are not well aware of the real mechanisms used by the United States’ politicians in their foreign policy approaches.

The United States came into being by killing indigenous population of the North America. The country went through its first stages of development by taking advantage of the slave system. Afterwards, it resorted to various means to promote its interests in international environment. Those means included war, supporting domestic unrest, backing dictators, and when necessary, using the leverage of economic intervention or aid, and supporting popular uprisings to direct them in the direction desired by the United States.

The United States supported the former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak to the last minute in order to guarantee its own interests. Washington also kept friendly ties to Tunisia’s former dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and Yemen’s repressive ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, through their rule. It also supports the Al Saud regime which is an outstanding example of a reactionary and dictatorial regime. The United States has followed double standards vis-à-vis suppression of different uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. In the meantime, it has turned a blind eye on what is going on in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. The main factor which determines the way that the United States treats other countries is the degree to which they are attuned to policies of the West, especially the United States, not their level of democratization or support for human rights.

The fact that national interests and profit-seeking form the axis of the United States’ foreign policy – like all other countries – is not an issue which solely pertains to our time or to a special region like the Middle East. The United States directly entered the world wars only after its national interests and security were in danger and to win those wars, it made recourse to any means, including the nuclear weapons. Under the bipolar world system, which came into being following the World War II and in competition with the former Soviet Union, the United States supported any country whose interests were in line with those of the west regardless of whether their political systems were dictatorship or democracy. This US approach can be tracked in various parts of the world from the Middle East down to the Latin America. An example of that approach was toppling the popular government of the Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq after Britain and the United States reached an agreement on how to share Iran’s oil resources. The coup d’état that toppled Mosaddeq was staged through direct support of the Eisenhower Administration after which the United States gave its unbridled support to dictatorial government of Iran’s Shah. Another example was Washington’s backing for the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran. Despite being a former enemy of the West and part of the Soviet Union bloc, Saddam was suddenly turned into a tool in the hands of the US foreign policy.

That trend continued after termination of the Cold War by raising new issues and securitizing certain global facts in order to use them as a ground for further expansion of the US hegemony. The 9/11 terror attacks made the United States adopt new policies which represented the climax of the US interventionism and unilateralism. The Taliban which was once supported by the United States in its war with the Soviet Union was introduced as a source of terrorism and a menace to world peace which should be suppressed. Saddam was overthrown through occupation of Iraq after being introduced as enemy of democracy, sponsor of terrorism and a source of weapons of mass destruction. The United States makes the most frequent use of its veto right in favor of Israel. At the same time, Israel is a racist and occupationist regime which directly orders assassination and killing of the Palestinian civilians and is not ashamed of admitting it. The contemporary histories of Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba and other Latin American countries is full of instances of military and non-military intervention by the United States none of which has been aimed at promoting democracy or protecting the human rights.

Now, with all these clear historical examples to consider, it would be quite illogical and unrealistic to expect the United States to overlook its own national interests in favor of supporting the human rights and democracy. We must be able to understand the realities on the ground and adopt a suitable approach proportionate to those realities. This will help us avoid any extreme measure. The issue which should be taken into account by Iran’s representatives in their nuclear talks with the P5+1 group and also in other areas of foreign policy is that our farsightedness and accuracy in this field is directly related to the quality of domestic social trends in Iran as well as Iran’s position at international level.

Key Words: US Foreign Policy, Profit-Seeking Approach, National Interests, Democracy and Human Rights, Popular Uprisings, Salehi

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