Many in Mideast see hypocrisy in Western embrace of Ukraine
- The response has elicited outrage across the Middle East
- The US-led war in Iraq was widely seen as an unlawful invasion of one state by another
- Iraqis who fought the Americans were branded terrorists
Within days of the Russian invasion, Western countries invoked international law, imposed crippling sanctions, began welcoming refugees with open arms and cheered on Ukraine's armed resistance.
The response has elicited outrage across the Middle East, where many see a glaring double standard in how the West responds to international conflicts.
"We have seen every means we were told could not be activated for over 70 years deployed in less than seven days," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told a security forum in Turkey earlier this month.
"Amazing hypocrisy," he added.
The US-led war in Iraq, which began 19 years ago this month, was widely seen as an unlawful invasion of one state by another. But Iraqis who fought the Americans were branded terrorists, and refugees fleeing to the West were often turned away, treated as potential security threats.
Also read: Oil prices dip on Russia-Ukraine peace talk hopes, China demand concerns
The Biden administration said Wednesday the United States has assessed that Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine and would work with others to prosecute offenders. But the US is not a member of the International Criminal Court and staunchly opposes any international probe of its own conduct or of its ally, Israel.
When Russia intervened in Syria's civil war on behalf of President Bashar Assad in 2015, helping his forces to pummelled and starve entire cities into submission, there was international outrage but little action. Syrian refugees fleeing to Europe died on perilous sea voyages or were turned back as many branded them a threat to Western culture.
In Yemen, a grinding yearslong war between a Saudi-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels has left 13 million people at risk of starvation. But even searing accounts of infants starving to death have not brought sustained international attention.
Bruce Riedel, formerly of the CIA and National Security Council, and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said it was “understandable” that many in the Middle East see a double standard by the West.
“The United States and the United Kingdom have supported Saudi Arabia’s seven-years-old war in Yemen, which created the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe in decades,” he said.
Israel's occupation of lands the Palestinians want for a future state is well into its sixth decade, and millions of Palestinians live under military rule with no end in sight. The U.S., Israel and Germany have passed legislation aimed at suppressing the Palestinian-led boycott movement, while major firms like McDonald's, Exxon Mobil and Apple have won praise by suspending business in Russia.
On social media, the world has cheered Ukrainians as they stockpile Molotov cocktails and take up arms against an occupying army. When Palestinians and Iraqis do the same thing, they are branded terrorists and legitimate targets.
“We resisted the occupiers, even when the world was with the Americans, including the Ukrainians, who were part of their coalition," said Sheikh Jabbar al-Rubai, 51, who fought in the 2003-2011 Iraqi insurgency against US forces.