Middle East Stunned by Trump Supporters Storming US Capitol
America’s friends and foes alike fascinated by the chaos in Washington
The events that began unfolding on Wednesday at the US Capitol, as Congress met in a joint session to certify the results of the presidential election, had millions of people around the Middle East dumbfounded, glued to their televisions and unable to believe their eyes.
They were in shock at what was happening in Washington, viewed as the world’s capital of democracy, as rioting supporters of President Donald Trump forced their way into the Capitol building.
Osama al-Sharif, a veteran Jordanian journalist and political commentator, wrote on his Facebook page: “The other side of America!”
The US-educated Sharif described what he was watching as “surreal,” adding: “Trump declared war on America!!”
“Trump has just fired the coup de grâce bullet at American democracy. … He will pay a heavy price!” he also wrote.
Yusuf Erim, chief political analyst and editor-at-large for Turkish public broadcaster TRT, told The Media Line he was not surprised at what happened.
“The events should have been seen coming a mile away. Many in the US still view the election results as illegitimate, and this will have a negative impact on [President-elect Joe] Biden’s credibility when he meets with foreign leaders,” Erim said.
“On January 20th, for the first time since WW2, the US president will not hold the mantle of most powerful man in the world. … He might not even be the most powerful man in his own country,” he tweeted.
Trump is able to mobilize supporters at an unprecedented level. Last night Trump cemented himself as the major opposition figure over the next four years, and many world leaders will continue to maintain a relationship with him because they understand this
Erim says that the election outcome proved that Trump is powerful and able to mobilize millions of people behind his message. As for the more than 81 million Americans who cast ballots to replace Trump, Erim says they voted for the Democratic Party and not Biden.
“Trump is able to mobilize supporters at an unprecedented level. Last night Trump cemented himself as the major opposition figure over the next four years, and many world leaders will continue to maintain a relationship with him because they understand this,” he said.
The scenes of a violent mob storming the Capitol building will surely shake the US image around the world, Erim said.
“America has lost its position as the pinnacle of democracy and this will greatly weaken Biden’s hands-on approach toward intervening in the domestic matters of other countries,” he said.
The images of hundreds of flag-waving Americans storming the Capitol and interrupting a joint session of Congress, where lawmakers were set to certify Biden’s Electoral College win, shocked millions of people around the region.
Daoud Kuttab, a prominent, Amman-based Palestinian journalist, writer and analyst, told The Media Line that Middle Easterners can learn a valuable lesson from the episode.
“The free US press and the independent judiciary played a courageous role in upholding basic democratic values. For us in the Middle East this is a powerful lesson as to the kind of reform needed in the areas of judicial and press freedoms to ensure all citizens’ voices and rights are preserved,” Kuttab said.
Mona Omari, an Arab Israeli journalist from Haifa, was in Washington recently covering the US presidential election. She told The Media Line that “what happened yesterday shattered my image of Congress.”
The respect and prestige of the American legislature in the eyes of the world have been tarnished, Omari said.
“This is the building where decisions are made that decide the fate of nations around the world. Future congressional decisions will not have the same weight. The US Congress has worked to establish democracies in the Middle East, passed sanctions due to the lack of democracy in our region, and dispatched armies,” she said.
“But now, while it was working to ratify Mr. Biden’s election victory, it was stormed by Americans in this humiliating fashion. Unbelievable,” Omari said.
America is accustomed to instigating violent transitions of power in foreign countries. Not experiencing one itself
Khaled Beydoun, a law professor at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville School of Law and Senior Affiliated Faculty at U.C.-Berkeley, tweeted: “America is accustomed to instigating violent transitions of power in foreign countries. Not experiencing one itself.”
Many in the region considered the riot an “unprecedented assault befitting of banana republics,” he said.
Palestinian comedian Alaa Abu Diab was sarcastic in his reaction, tweeting: “It is impossible for what happened in the US to take place here. The most important thing for us is a peaceful transfer of power. Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat], may God rest his soul, handed over power to Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] without problems … and Abu Mazen, God extend his life, when his time comes, will hand power over to the next one without problems. But the Americans don’t know what democracy means.”
Barzan Jabar, a journalist from Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan, Iraq, told The Media Line he was “stunned” by what he saw on the TV screen, but still, he has “faith” in the US.
“I am really happy that they are replacing Trump with Biden, I am sure the USA will be a good model for the Middle East and teach it how to change presidents and teach it how elections are important and that the nation decides,” Jabar said.
Sivan, an Israeli high-tech worker who attended college near Capitol Hill, told The Media Line the whole world was “watching in awe.”
“I can’t believe this could happen in the US,” she said, adding, “The United States stands for democracy and that’s its message to the world.”
Egyptian journalist Mina Nader told The Media Line that “what happened is a black day in American history.”
Throughout America’s history, no one has been able to bring its democracy into question, not “even the Soviet Union. But this will strengthen America,” Nader said.
Dima Khayat, from Damascus, was straightforward about how she felt. America helps to feed “lawlessness” in her country, and the US “deserves” what happened, she said.
“Frankly, I wish it would become chaotic in America. Like the chaos they spread to the world. But I have enough awareness to understand that it is a charade. And surely, they will preserve America’s democratic image,” Khayat, who works for an NGO, told The Media Line.
I can’t believe this could happen in the US. The United States stands for democracy and that’s its message to the world
Arab news media broadcast wall-to-wall coverage of the lawlessness and chaos, and many continued reporting overnight and into Thursday.
Friends and adversaries of the United States alike watched in shock as Washington’s closest allies in the region issued statements of support.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a key ally of Trump, condemned the attack on the Capitol building, calling it “disgraceful” and the “opposite” of American and Israeli values. Netanyahu continued to praise Trump, however.
Meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the chaos unleashed on the US Capitol by Trump’s supporters exposed the weakness of Western democracy.
“What we saw in the United States yesterday evening and today shows above all how fragile and vulnerable Western democracy is,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast by state television.
Ankara called on all parties in the US to exercise restraint.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said: “We are following with concern the internal developments that have reached the point of an attempt to storm the US Congress building by demonstrators,” adding: “We call on all parties in the United States for calm and restraint, and we trust that the country will overcome this internal political crisis with maturity.”
No Arab government issued a statement reacting to what happened on Wednesday. The scenes of mobs storming a parliament appear to be something Arab governments do not feel comfortable discussing.