US backing for Arab Spring bearing ‘strange fruit’

The US has strongly backed the Libyan opposition and is now enthusiastic in its condemnation of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. But could America’s decision to take sides bring some unexpected - and unwanted - results?

­As nations in the Middle East and North Africa are torn between the struggle to bring about change and the struggle not to let that change ruin their lives, Washington views the Arab Spring as an opportunity to finally see some of its long-time foes crumble.

Under the umbrella of Arab revolutions, Washington is also beating the drums of regime-change in Syria, Iran’s closest ally in the region.  Violence within the country has been widely condemned with countries like Russia and China calling for both sides in Syria to talk and end the bloodshed. However, America is blaming Assad alone.

In August, Hillary Clinton said that Assad should “get out of the way” of what she called the “transition to democracy” in the country.  Earlier this month, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that just like Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad days are “numbered.”

Brian Becker from the ANSWER Coalition believes that through Libya and Syria, America is trying to reach Iran. 

“They have overthrown Gaddafi – they are going to have a proxy government in Tripoli. The next step is Syria,” he said. “They want to overthrow Syria next, to take advantage of any movement that exists in Syria to overthrow the Assad government, not to have a more democratic government, a more humane government, but a government that is an ally of the United States. And after Syria, the next target will be Iran itself.”

Watching regimes go down, one by one, American politicians are filled with new hopes and aspirations. Some went as far as to predict the Arab Spring would spread all across the world.

“What this is all about is the Arab Spring, and Bashar Assad is next,” US Senator John McCain said in a television broadcast. “Even places like China and Russia and other places, they are very uneasy. This is about people aspiring for freedom. And that is what the Libyan people have just achieved.”

Becker says that although McCain is clearly living in a fantasy world, his words follow a well-worn train of thought on Capitol Hill. 

“That is wishful thinking on the part of John McCain but it speaks volumes to where the real orientation is in Washington, not just of the Republicans, but the Democrats too,” he said.

“I believe that the United States’ government feels, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago this year, that there is one single power left in the world,” Becker added. “So, they would like to overthrow the government in China, they would like to overthrow the government in Russia, they would like to overthrow the government of Venezuela, Cuba or wherever people are independent of the dictates of Washington. But I think it is a fantasy.”  

Still, when it comes to Syria and Iran, Washington does not seem to be just fantasizing about revolutions. It actively fosters the process by pledging support for anti-government movements there. Some say, however, this might eventually turn against America’s closest ally in the region, Israel.

“If you were to see the rise of a popular revolution with very extreme Islamic fundamentalist elements there, what you have with Hamas could essentially spread to many more places, and then you would have a much larger population base in an extremely hostile position towards the very existence of Israel,” Russ Baker from told RT. 

By throwing its support behind revolution-makers, analysts say, Washington is seeking to increase its influence and control in these countries. However, US might be surprised at what fruit its interference bears.  

In Egypt, thousands are protesting against the military that is still in power there. Last week, Egyptians stormed the Israeli embassy enraged by the earlier killing of five Egyptian border guards. In Libya, a Washington-backed leadership is taking over, but with fears the country is at risk of plunging into tribal war. In Syria the opposition, backed broadly by Washington, includes those with radical agendas.

The aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring remains very murky and difficult. While Washington has been backing regime-change, the fear is it might end up getting the opposite of what it wishes for, undermining the whole region.

Now the US is voicing concerns over the threat of sectarian violence in the region following the wave of uprisings that it backed so enthusiastically at first. In her annual report on religious freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Arab nations not to “trade one form of repression for another”.

Clinton claimed in the report that  “People [in the Middle East and North Africa] have been killed by their own neighbors because of ethnicity or faith. In other places we’ve seen Government stand by while sectarian violence, enflamed by religious animosities, tears communities apart".