Human Rights Politics

Featured Blog: United States’ biggest Middle East allies violate human rights

Photo courtesy Edward Blake via Flickr.
Written by Alena Klimas

All of the American presidential candidates (minus Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders) spoke at the AIPAC, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, conference a few weeks ago, and it seems all of the candidates who attended were trying to gain any sort of favor they could from Israel and the Jewish-American community.

“Israel is America’s greatest ally” was repeated a number of times throughout the event. Praise was issued from all around about Israel’s progressiveness and bonds with the United States. But this conference really got me thinking about which countries the U.S. name its greatest allies in the Middle East. Is there a way to determine which country is our greatest ally in the region?

I approached this question from a number of ways. I listed the top three based on the support and money the U.S. has devoted to the countries in the Middle East. Other factors include strategic interest, security cooperation, historical development and financial resources. Some of these allies include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan, Kuwait and Morocco, many of which do not have the best human rights track records. However, only three candidates made the short list.

Which countries are the United States’ biggest allies?

Jordan

With the Islamic State just outside Jordan’s border, the U.S. has made significant investment in friendship with the Hashemite-ruled government. In Jordan, the U.S. has supported a project to wall the Jordanian borders. Vice calls this the “Great Wall of Jordan,” and it is all on your tax dollars. Jordan will receive $1 billion, according to Foreign Assistance. The Jordanian government also carries out a vast security and intelligence apparatus to monitor the domestic population.

Egypt

Egypt takes home the second most funding with $1,456,800,000 USD a year, according to Foreign Assistance. It also shares security initiatives with the U.S. It has worked with the U.S. and Israel on a number of issues, like pumping salt water into tunnels that cross from Egypt to the Gaza Strip — a barricaded piece of occupied Palestinian territory. Of course, this is to block “weapons,” but it also has the effect of blocking aid such as food, medical supplies, et cetera into the desperate Gaza Strip. This is not to mention the abuses that occur within the Egyptian border on the watch of the Sisi dictatorship. Human Rights Watch reports that protests are illegal, freedom of speech has vanished, opposition political parties like the Muslim Brotherhood are illegal and torture has become a norm.

Israel

Foreign Assistance shows that just this year, the U.S. has promised $3.1 billion in aid to Israel. Israel takes home the prize for receiving the most aid of any country in the Middle East region. My home senator of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, went on record to say Israel was the only ally of the U.S. back in 2013. I would argue that this is a pretty common view among politicians and the American public. Almost all of the presidential candidates went to speak at the AIPAC conference, which shows how positively the American public thinks of the diplomatic relationship with Israel. However, while Israel is known to be “democratic,” its human rights records are far from perfect. Human Rights Watch reported that the country enforces “severe and discriminatory restrictions” on Palestinians, supports “unlawful” settlements on designated Palestinian lands and uses “excessive force.” The list goes on and on. The most recent incident of excessive force and extrajudicial killings comes from a YouTube video of a man who was shot and killed while laying already injured, deposed, on the ground. He was killed without a day in court. This happened in March, but the Israeli government will not prosecute the soldier on murder charges.

So what does do these countries have in common?

A majority of the funds for all three countries go toward “peace and security,” not human rights, democracy or freedom incentives, according to Foreign Assistance. A majority of these countries are perpetrators of vast human rights abuses. This makes me wonder about the rhetoric of human rights and justice that our country’s leaders and politicians regularly repeat on the television. By looking at just how much the U.S. supports certain countries, there is a quite different story to be told.

Junior Annie Chester and sophomore Annalycia Liston-Beck also contribute to this featured blog, “Critical International Media Perspectives.”

About the author

Alena Klimas

Alena is co-writer for the Featured Blog Section: Critical International Media Perspectives. She studies Political Science and Global Studies:War and Peace with a Certificate in Islamic Studies. She is learning Arabic and has a focus on comparative politics of the Middle East. She is the Programming Director for the International Student Union and an Executive of the Comparative Religions Club at Ohio University.

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