The Politics of Convenience.

Egyptian protesters face anti-riot policemen in Cairo on Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. Photo © Victoria Hazou / AP

I would hazard to guess that most people who pay attention to what is going on in the world, even their own little part of the wider global spectrum, are aware of it. But, it doesn’t make it any easier for someone like myself to stomach, when the politics of convenience is so unabashedly displayed as it has been in Iran’s response to the current social unrest in Egypt.

Today, Associated Press reported that:

Iran’s state prosecutor on Wednesday said the opposition should not stage its own rally in support of Egyptian protesters, warning of repercussions if it does so.

Say that again. It wasn’t that long ago that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said :

“Today’s events in North of Africa, Egypt, Tunisia and certain other countries have another sense for the Iranian nation. They have special meaning. This is the same as ‘Islamic awakening,’ which is the result of the victory of the big revolution of the Iranian nation.”

Iran’s official IRNA news agency also quoted an Iranian Foreign Ministry statement:

“Iran supports the rightful demands of the Egyptian people and emphasizes they should be met.”

That was barely four days ago. What the Iranian government, and Supreme Leader both conveniently omitted, or chose to ignore, were the similarities to their own political crisis a mere 18 months previous. Iran was rocked by tens of thousands of protesters disputing the legitimacy of the country’s latest presidential election, which was dismissed by many as a fraud. It’s as if the worst crisis of legitimacy since the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran never happened.

Do governments, wherever they may be, and of whatever shade of democracy or authoritarianism they wear, really think the public will continue to put up with such blatant, self-serving bs? The Iranian protesters of a year and a half ago were also vocalizing their “rightful demands”, only to be crushed brutally. And now, the Iranian leadership go ahead and outlaw public demonstrations of support for the Egyptian cause, probably to ensure that their own people stay on message – the government’s message, and not the one the protesters in Egypt eschew, and the Iranian people, likewise chanted in the streets of Tehran.

In my view, many governments should be mindful of being called out for their politics of convenience, and by extension, their tacit, and expressed support for regimes, or even issues that negatively impact the people they claim to represent, claim to safeguard the best interests of, and claim to serve.

In the guise of the former South Vietnam, and Iran’s own peacock throne of  Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, history is rife with examples of wrongful support of regimes that didn’t deserve it. We have seen what happens to the governments of these regimes when they lose touch with their populace, if they ever were in the first place. But history has also shown how those who were complicit in supporting these governments, whether openly or covertly, are sometimes adversely affected. It can come back to bite them in the ass, and good. Of course these two examples position the United States as the whipping boy of hindsight. But the U.S. is not alone in this.

Canada’s role, and voice in large global events is often a sidebar. But, as a citizen of the world, do I not have a responsibility to call my government to task on its choices, outside of merely casting a ballot on election day? Could I not question our government’s support for a regime like Hamid Karzai’s in Afghanistan based on known corruption and nepotism alone? What about the actions of Canada’s friend, the government of Israel, in dealing with the Palestinian issue?

I believe Canadians can learn a thing or two from our American neighbour’s past experiences when it comes to insisting our own levels of government take responsibility for their decisions, and are held accountable for them. It could be on a federal level. But, the elimination of the politics of convenience could start even closer to home. Here in British Columbia,  a public asset known as BC Rail, and worth $1 billion dollars, was sold under questionable circumstances. The resultant criminal investigation was suddenly stopped by a plea, just before high-profile members of the government were due to testify. Convenient, or not? My hope is that the public demands we find out.

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