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Biden has placed his rights at the heart of American foreign policy.

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File photo: US President Joe Biden pauses while speaking about the death of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka during a statement at the White House in Washington, DC on August 5, 2021.Reuters / Jonathan Ernst / File Photo

September 13, 2021

By Simon Lewis and Humeira Pamuk

Washington (Reuters) Hours after the last US military and diplomats left Afghanistan, President Joe Biden delivered a speech at the White House, where Washington continued to support stranded Afghanistan and its basic rights. He said he would particularly defend the rights of women. And the girl.

“It is clear that human rights will be at the heart of our foreign policy,” he said, reiterating his frequent campaign promises in his speeches since taking office on January 20.

The comment increased skepticism among critics who claimed the United States had abandoned the people from the Taliban. The Taliban are a brutal group with a history of crushing women’s rights in the name of radical Islamic interpretations.

A review of Biden’s records to date shows that human rights concerns have been repeatedly sidelined in support of national security priorities and to ensure continued involvement with foreign powers. to augment.

Supporters say Biden fired the shot at the crucial moment.

In the Middle East, despite rhetoric on democracy and human rights, supporters continue to support authoritarians like President Abdelfatta Arsisi, who has turned to the Egyptian governor.

In Saudi Arabia, the administration has released inside information linking Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but has avoided any action against the crown prince himself.

In Myanmar, the administration blamed the military coup and imposed sanctions on its general, but the military junta’s main income, an offshore natural gas project involving international companies, including the US oil company Chevron. I left the source.

In addition, in at least one high-level meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, human rights and press freedom concerns were ignored due to other issues, told Reuters a source close to the meeting.

Supporters say the Biden administration is much more focused on promoting human rights than its predecessor Donald Trump, who praised authoritative leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and the North Korean Kim Jong Un. However, he indicates that it is not considered an outcome.

“This is not the right standard,” said Amy Hawthorne, deputy director of research for the Middle East Democracy Project, an advocacy group.

The real test was Biden’s willingness to work on a rights issue himself, Hawthorne said. “This is what it means to put this issue at the center of foreign policy. I see no evidence of this.

Private diplomacy

Senior State Department officials have defended government records, saying diplomats frequently raise human rights issues with foreign leaders, including difficult discussions with adversaries such as China and Russia.

In some cases, officials have told Reuters that personally raising human rights concerns is a more effective approach and does not constitute a “punch” to the United States.

“In some situations, there is no point in raising matters personally, rather than publicly blaming the government for what has gone wrong,” said an official who requested anonymity to speak about US policy.

Sometimes this problem can be too boring to bring up personally. In a high-level meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan in June, Biden did not discuss concerns about Turkey’s human rights record, but the future of Kabul airport, a priority for the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan, sources said. Focused on issues such as.

The two NATO allies are already at odds over issues, including Ankara’s purchase of air defense weapons from Russia, and US officials say the debate over the treatment of Turkish opponents and the press could have exacerbated the tensions. Declared.

Turkish officials have taken this as a signal that Washington is not enforcing strong human rights, sources said. ..

Lawyers and some US officials have been disappointed that they missed the opportunity to take a stand.

Annie Boyazian, advocacy manager at Freedom House, said:

‘Not serious’

The first test of Biden’s commitment to democracy abroad came days after his inauguration, with the Burmese military seizing power and detaining elected politicians.

Biden responded with sanctions against members of the military junta, but did not target offshore gas projects, which account for about half of Myanmar’s foreign exchange earnings.

U.S. officials said the government was still considering imposing sanctions on gas projects, but added that a large portion of the population in Myanmar and neighboring Thailand depends on gas.

A future test is whether Secretary of State Antony Blinken will continue his predecessor’s policy of overriding Congressional controls on military aid to Egypt, based on his argument that it is about the national security of the United States. Interest in admitting an exception, freeing up about $ 300 million for the Sisi government. The decision is expected at the end of September.

A dozen or more rights groups told Blinken in an April letter that if he refused to release the funds, “the United States will send a clear message that it is serious about its commitment in promoting human rights abroad “. paddy field.

Sisi, who expelled the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has overseen the crackdown on objections that have become stricter in recent years. He denies that there are political prisoners in Egypt and says stability and security are paramount.

US officials have said Washington is re-examining its ties to the Middle East government, including Sisi.

“We have expressed and will continue to be concerned about numerous human rights violations in Egypt, both in public and in private,” officials said.

(Report by Simon Lewis and Humeira Pamuk, edited by Mary Milliken and Daniel Wallis)

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