Storming of US Capitol Hill catches attention of Middle East

Even authoritarian and autocratic regimes saw in the unrest lessons in the workings and failings of democracy.
Friday 08/01/2021
Supporters of US President Donald Trump march through the streets of the city as they make their way to the Capitol Building in Washington, on January 6, 2021. (AFP)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump march through the streets of the city as they make their way to the Capitol Building in Washington, on January 6, 2021. (AFP)

The storming of US Capitol Hill caught the attention of rulers and populations alike in the Middle East and North Africa.

Even authoritarian and autocratic regimes saw in the unrest lessons in the workings and failings of democracy.

Angry supporters of US President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday in a chaotic protest aimed at thwarting a peaceful transfer of power, forcing lawmakers to be rushed from the building and interrupting challenges to President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.

For Iranian leaders, the events offered an opportunity to lecture the West about “the fragility of democracy” and settle scores with their nemesis Trump.

A heavy police force is evident, including the Secret Service (C), at the Senate door after supporters of President Donald Trump breeched security at the U.S. Capitol, rioting through the Senate and House and disrupting the certification of President-elect Joe Biden, in Washington, USA, January 6, 2021. (REUTERS)
A heavy police force is evident, including the Secret Service (C), at the Senate door after supporters of President Donald Trump breeched security at the U.S. Capitol, rioting through the Senate and House and disrupting the certification of President-elect Joe Biden, in Washington, USA, January 6, 2021. (REUTERS)

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said Thursday that the chaos unleashed on the US Capitol by Trump’s supporters exposed the fragility of Western democracy.

“What we saw in the United States yesterday (Wednesday) evening and today shows above all how fragile and vulnerable Western democracy is,” Rohani said in a speech broadcast by state television.

“We saw that unfortunately the ground is fertile for populism, despite the advances in science and industry.

“A populist has arrived and he has led his country to disaster over these past four years.

“I hope the whole world and the next occupants of the White House will learn from it.”

Rohani said he hoped for a change of direction from the incoming administration of US President-elect Biden.

He urged the new administration “to make up (for the past) and restore the country to a position worthy of the American nation, because the American nation is a great nation.”

“May they return to reason, legality and their obligations. It’s for their own benefit and the good of the world,” he said.

There were harsher words in the Iranian foreign minister’s tweets. “A rogue president who sought vengeance against his OWN people has been doing much worse to our people-and others-in the past 4 years,” Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.

“What’s disturbing is that the same man has the UNCHECKED authority to start a nuclear war; a security concern for the entire int’l community.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called the assault on the US Congress by Trump’s supporters a disgrace that has “shocked humankind.”

“This is a disgrace for democracy,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.

“We hope that the transition to Mr Biden on January 20 will be peaceful and that America will go back to being at peace.”

Erdogan also extended condolences to the families of those who died in the violence.

Ankara has often described the failed 2016 coup against the Turkish regime a failed attempt against democracy by followers of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The Turkish foreign ministry said, “We are following with concern the internal developments happening in the US.”

“We call on all parties in the US to maintain restraint and prudence. We believe the US will overcome this internal political crisis in a mature manner.”

Despite his close relationship with the US president, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vehemently assailed the assault on Capitol Hill by Trump’s far right supporters. He said the “rampage at the Capitol .. was a disgraceful act and it must be vigorously condemned.”

“I have no doubt that… American democracy will prevail. It always has,” added Netanyahu, who has repeatedly called Trump Israel’s best-ever friend in the White House.

On social media, the US capital’s events triggered commentary but also cartoons and spoofs in the Arab world, where some mockingly compared “Arab spring” events to Washington’s far right insurrection.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, Januray 6, 2020. (REUTERS)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, Januray 6, 2020. (REUTERS)

In Tunisia, politicians and analysts said the mob attack of January 6 in Washington had lessons for their own country where emerging populism trends start to pose a problem.

“Populism is a dangerous disease which can cause serious damage even in the most ancient of democracies,” said Mohsen Marzouk, leader of the centrist Mashrou Tounes party.

“For Tunisia, there is one single lesson: At the basis of work in public affairs there shoiuld be resonsibility. Where is irresponsibility, there is as anarchy,” he added.