While many of the human rights violations occurring in the Middle East are primarily the responsibility and fault of the respective governments conducting these acts, it would be a grave misstep to omit responsibility rightfully attributed to nations external to the Middle East. While there are many nations that can be listed as contributing to the atrocities in the Middle East, I think most objective-minded people would agree Russia is a primary player. From the direct military support involved in Syria’s conflict, to increased trading with Iran. Both these actions directly show a lack of concern for the human rights violations occurring in the aforementioned countries. As Newsweek reported, Russia has become a power player in the Middle East. It goes without saying that Syria’s Assad depends on Russian intervention in order to stay afloat, which has perpetuated the internal conflict a lot longer than it would have without Russia’s assistance. By continuing and increasing trade with Iran, especially during the period where the US hadn’t warmed relations, Russia was able to increase its allies in the region and allow repressive governments like Iran to continue as it preferred, even at the cost of human lives. It is of no surprise Russia has done whatever possible to regain prestige and power. Dmitri Trenin (director of Moscow’s Carnegie Center) stated “The goal of [Putin’s] foreign policy is to restore Russia as a global major power. For him to be able to operate in the Middle East, in competition with the U.S., is a badge of [being] a major power. That is what Russia did in Syria.”
The US is also complicit in the oppression and human rights violations in the Middle East. Supplying opposition forces with weapons, and providing manpower in Syria has kept the conflict in Syria in limbo, both nations fighting each other by proxy. As Russia increases support and protection of Assad, the US counters via the opposition forces. Additionally, the US increasingly friendly relationship with Saudi Arabia brings forth more tangible connections between Washington and human rights violations. As discussed in a previous blog, Saudi Arabia has its own human rights violations, and the US has not done much to require corrective actions or levied sanctions on them, mainly because we stand to lose a strategic partner. While that occurs, the US is complicit in what Saudi Arabia does as well; Yemen’s disastrous state is a directly result from regional powers (Iran and Saudi Arabia) essentially fighting each other, and again, you find the US and Russia supporting the warring nations. According to Human Rights Watch, US made bombs illegally used in air strikes were found in the conflict; how else would they get there, if not sold to Saudi Arabia who is directly involved there?
As nations like Russia and the US continue to act in accordance to their national interest, this level of realist actions must be noted, and held accountable. As acknowledged by Newsweek, “Western intervention in Libya and Yemen—together with the involvement of Iran and a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen—helped produce failed states that are still mired in civil wars.” The only exception of progress from the Arab Spring was Tunisia, the rest have not yielded successful democracies or mere stability. Meanwhile, the blatant violations that result from the influence of these two great powers has not been curbed, rather, it has increased, finger pointing continues, and no one is held accountable. Both great powers, Russia and the US, are playing a dangerous game, where the losers include their respective citizens, as well as the victims in the countries in which they insert themselves.