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2 Feb, 2022 09:12

The US calling this small Middle Eastern nation a ‘major ally’ smacks of desperation

The US calling this small Middle Eastern nation a ‘major ally’ smacks of desperation

US President Joe Biden announced on Monday that he was designating Qatar, the Gulf state, as a “major non-NATO ally,” stating that the sheikdom was a “good friend and a reliable partner.” The move comes amid efforts to present Doha as an alternative to Russia for European exports of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG), in an effort to isolate Moscow. 

Yet if there is one enduring message coming out of this seemingly unnecessary declaration, it is that it hugely exposes Washington’s hypocrisy and rank opportunism on the issue of “human rights”. The US is actively embracing a country that has committed acts which Washington is simultaneously weaponizing against others, demonstrating the insincerity of human rights discourse in America’s propaganda war against China.

A question of forced labor

If you take the Biden administration’s rhetoric at face value, you might assume they are a bunch of well-meaning people standing up for human dignity, who are drawing a red line on what has been described as “forced labor.” It is a no-brainer that forced labor, or “modern slavery” as it’s sometimes called, is completely unacceptable in the 21st century. So who could have any complaints about such a dignified and common-sense policy, right? But as it happens, 100% of this rhetoric has been targeted deliberately and conveniently at China, where Beijing is accused of pursuing forced labor programs against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. 

The claims originated from a report by the US State Department and the defense-industry-funded Australian Strategic Policy Institute. They have since been debunked and shown to be flawed by a comprehensive 100-page analysis by an independent Australian expert, but that hasn't stopped such allegations becoming a mainstream narrative and policy line. Hence, in presenting the “America Competes Act” to the House of Representatives, a bumper protectionist bill, Nancy Pelosi accused China of “inhumane” economic practices. Likewise, at the end of last year, Biden signed into law an act which effectively banned all goods made in Xinjiang from the US. 

So, what has this got to do with Qatar? While pointing fingers at China over forced labor, the US is making a major ally out of a country which uses such practices, particularly in the building of stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which Qatar is hosting later this year. This has led to the deaths of an estimated 6,500 laborers, who are alleged to have been housed in slave-like conditions and forced to work in extremely dangerous conditions. Doha has denied this, insisting the death count has been greatly exaggerated. 

Those Western politicians and media outlets posturing over Xinjiang conveniently do not have a word to say about this. There are no penalties heading Doha’s way, nor much outrage from NGOs and rights groups. Unlike with China’s upcoming Winter Olympics, there is no talk of boycotting the World Cup in protest, or imposing a diplomatic boycott. 

Washington, in effect, is saying “because you are strategically and politically useful to us, we will give you a free pass on human rights.” What is relentlessly targeted at Beijing is ignored concerning Qatar. 

But if it wasn’t clear enough already, forced labor claims targeted at China are not fueled by genuine ethical concerns, but as a tool to advance America’s protectionist goals. They are designed to target certain key items which America seeks to gain control of, such as solar panels, which the America Competes Act is seeking to aggressively subsidize. It is a convenient card to play in order to manufacture consent for policies which seek to force the shift of supply chains and undermine China’s monopoly of them. The fact the administration repeatedly describes apparent forced labor in China as an “unfair economic practice” is a barely disguised phrase for their true intentions.

Is Qatar really the “close ally” the US makes it out to be? It is a designation that was sudden and unusual. Despite Biden’s bid to weaponize the emirate against Russia, Doha has good ties with Moscow. And, is there any chance that Doha will be an ally for the US against China? It should speak louder than words that the Emir is, ironically, currently in Beijing for the Olympics, as China is a huge customer for its LNG as well. The visit comes amid a broader shift in the Gulf state’s foreign policies towards China, pivoting away from their traditional reliance on the US. The White House has sought to arrest this, including by attempting to force the UAE to dump Huawei in leveraging the sale of F-35 warplanes. The move backfired, and one might in turn analyze this Qatar move as a desperate attempt to shore up declining US influence in the Gulf. 

Qatar serves as an important case study in reflecting America’s selective and opportunistic outlook on human rights, and how it co-opts the majority of the media to follow its narratives. You see endless “concerns,” outrage, and dissident voices maximized for everything concerning China, yet this amplification is not consistent and the same actors are capable of being perfectly silent when it comes to an issue which is not in American interests to astroturf. 

The public are encouraged to hate and show disgust at China, but to ignore Qatar for the most part, which is to be embraced as an “ally” in a move born of strategic desperation. The estimated 6,500 people who died building the stadiums for an event which will not be subject to a boycott or a smear campaign will be unavailable for comment.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.