Arab violence: good democratic vs. bad sectarian

The US has voiced concerns about the threat of sectarian violence in the Middle East and North Africa. But earlier it did not hesitate to back radical groups which helped to bring down authoritarian regimes.

While presenting an annual report on religious freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Arab nations not to "trade one form of repression for another."

"In the Middle East and North Africa, the transitions to democracy have inspired the world but they have also exposed ethic and religious minorities to new dangers," Clinton said. "People have been killed by their own neighbors because of their ethnicity or faith. In other places we have seen governments stand by while sectarian violence inflamed by religious animosities tears communities apart."

Concerns about violence fueled by religious animosity did not stop the US from welcoming the uprising in Libya and supporting anti-Gaddafi forces with a NATO bombing campaign, despite the fact that the rebels were known to have supporters from extremist Islamist movements.

Now the war-torn country faces violence against black immigrants, which the new authorities cannot or will not stop. Tawarga, a town of 10,000 mostly populated by people with sub-Saharan origins, was turned into a ghost town by the victors. The rebels retaliated against the residents for supporting Gaddafi, and the majority of them have been turned into refugees with no place to go.

Neither have such concerns held back the US in its attitude toward the Syrian government of Bashar Assad. The crackdown on the city of Hama, which was the center of the radical Muslim Brotherhood uprising against Assad’s father, was condemned by Washington.

In post-Mubarak Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is gaining popularity and is bound to have strong representation in the parliament after an election takes place. On Wednesday the movement threatened to launch mass protests if the election is postponed. Earlier angry crowds ransacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo, with the police and military doing little to stop the pillaging.

The West has a habit of backing radical movements in the Middle East to bring down the regimes it does not like, noted Mark Almond, a lecturer in modern history at Oxford University.

“We have a classic example of this 30 years ago in Afghanistan, when people in the CIA thought it was a very good idea to get the Mujahideen to attack the pro-Soviet regime and then Soviet troops. They were successful, but I don’t think in the long term it was very beneficial for the United States and the world in general,” he told RT.