Syria lies in ruin! Rampant with death and displacement, children freeze in the long harsh winter of refugee camps that stretch far and wide. Whilst Egypt’s democracy lasted less time than the Plebgate scandal, Libya and Iraq sees militias set the agenda, with death a frequent and tragic companion to these embattled populations. As a citizen of the twenty-first century I am repulsed by what has been allowed to happen in the Middle East. However, my repulsion as a world citizen is nothing compared to my revulsion at being identified as British, European and Western following the Arab Spring.

Self-interest is a natural occurrence, one that blights my life as it does everyone else’s. Although international political theory has always validated this aspect as natural, this should not be inserted as a throwaway line to validate the greed, corruption and immorality of our leaders. Western governments continually promise democracy and to be firm with humanitarian interests, however this is a façade; self-interest not humanitarianism is primary.

David Cameron on a visit to post-revolutionary Cairo claimed he was ‘inspired’ and stated that the West would provide ‘the building blocks for democracy’. Nevertheless, when democratically elected Mohamed Morsi was removed by a military coup that subsequently became a military dictatorship, anyone with a primary school understanding of the region’s history could see this as being an inevitable and dreadful result. But not Cameron! He validated this military dictatorship – saying, this ‘now needs to happen in Egypt for democracy to flourish and for a genuine democratic transition to take place’.

I was hardly proud to be considered British, following Cameron’s miraculous reversal in Egypt. My feelings as a citizen of Europe were similarly demoralised as the European Union promoted a series of programs in response to the Arab Spring, incentivising admittance to the European free market, which they claimed would provide prosperity and mobility to the people of the region.

EU Vice President Catherine Ashton, claimed it would ‘ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development’. This has not happened. The International Monetary Fund has detailed that since the Arab Spring, growth in the region has declined by 1 per cent. What the program really allowed was for EU members to establish their foreign policy in their respective parliaments and exploit the situation. Ashton hinted at the egocentricity stating that a response was ‘extremely important for our own economic and security interests’.

This was irrefutably highlighted in August 2014.  Brussels decided with immediacy, to make permissible the supply of arms to Kurdish forces. This was in the attempt to balance the threat of militants who had begun to threaten key EU interests in the region.

However, sixteen months prior to this declaration, EU sanctions placed on Syrian oil in the height of a bloody civil war were lifted to provide assistance to anti-Assad forces and increase the flow of oil emanating from the state. As Professor Joshua Landis, an expert in the region commented: ‘Whoever gets their hands on the oil, water and agriculture, holds Sunni Syria by the throat. At the moment, that’s al-Nusra. Europe opening up the market for oil forced this issue. So the logical conclusion from this craziness is that Europe will be funding al-Qaida’.

A quandary automatically becomes apparent; do Western states choose values or interests? The answer is that Western states pursue each situation separately; promoting values when it’s in their interest, conversely if the situation requires, pursue interests and ignore values.

This is demonstrated aptly by King Hamad of Bahrain, a key ally for the West who has received little external pressure from Western nations. Yet, Muammar Gaddafi’s removal in Libya was comprehensively pursued, as the West illegally went beyond UN Resolution 1973 to remove him from power.

The West has condemned ISIS and Sunni militant activities, yet it continues to support the Gulf nations, despite states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar continually being implicated in assisting the rise of these militants. This is something even Vice President Joe Biden queried:‘They (Gulf Nations) poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad. Except that the people who were being supplied were al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world’.

But I would like to ask Mr Biden, where do these nations get their thousands of tons of weapons from? In 2011, prior to the severe weapons increases the Middle East witnessed, in an attempt to remove unwanted leaders; America had 35 per cent of the world’s arms exports and Britain was next with 15 per cent. Analysis of America’s figures is startling; The Gulf is the region that sees the largest concentration of activity and her biggest customer is Saudi Arabia. In 2010, a deal that was worth a potential $66 billion was concluded with the Saudis, with a further 10 billion in 2013 supplemented through already existing deals with allies in the Gulf.

Ultimately behind the rhetoric and posturing of political and human rights promotion, self-interest will continue to be primary in the Western states’ outlook. We continually find ourselves negligently following our self-interest, creating quagmires around the globe. We as a society must take our individual feeling of revulsion and lobby our political entities to pursue necessary humanitarian activities which our leaders continually promise but never seem to deliver.


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