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Jul-14-2011 14:02printcomments

Extending the House of Freedom - From the Middle East to the former Soviet Union

Freedom House’s successful wooing of the future “Arab Spring” protestors doesn’t bode well for the regimes in Iran and the former Soviet Union.

Map of world freedom 2008, based on rankings of Freedom House.
Map of world freedom 2008, based on rankings of Freedom House.
Green - "Free". Yellow - "Partly Free". Purple - "Not Free".

(OSAKA, Japan) - Not content with having helped in no small way in bringing “freedom” to much of the Arab world during the “revolutionary” spring of 2011, Freedom House is now setting its sights on what it sees as another “Outpost of Tyranny” — the former Soviet Union. In a Foreign Policy op-ed piece, its president David J. Kramer and director of studies Christopher Walker argue:

"While the collapse of the authoritarian regimes of the former Soviet Union may not be imminent, it is clear that they suffer from many of the same grave flaws that led to this year’s Arab revolts. Lacking established succession mechanisms and leaning heavily on informal, personality-based patronage networks, they are inherently unstable. Ultimately, the former Soviet states that are currently languishing under autocratic rule must confront, or be confronted by, the myriad problems they have left unresolved."

"The transatlantic democracies, therefore, have a clear strategic interest in helping reforms occur sooner rather than later and under more orderly circumstances. A more peaceful, sustainable transition is more likely when it can be negotiated between the regime, the opposition and civil society than when it takes place under crisis conditions, when crowds are already massing on the streets".

David J. Kramer, who preceded Michael Posner as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, was a senior fellow at the neoconservative Project for the New American Century. He is currently on the advisory council of the “Iran Strategy Task Force” — a joint initiative of Freedom House and the Progressive Policy Institute. “The dominant issues in the Middle East are democracy and freedom. The Iran regime thinks that it can escape demands for change,” says one of its co-chairs. “The United States, and its allies, therefore need a strategy that will help Iranians attain the human rights they so richly deserve.”

One would hope that few human rights activists in the targeted countries would be taken in by such rhetoric. However, Freedom House’s successful wooing of the future “Arab Spring” protestors doesn’t bode well for the regimes in Iran and the former Soviet Union.

According to a New York Times report titled “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” some Egyptian activists baulked at taking money and training from a U.S. government-funded organization whose freedom-loving board of trustees includes such pro-Israel stalwarts as Thomas Dine, Max Kampelman, Kenneth Adelman, Paula Dobriansky and Joshua Muravchik:

Affiliating themselves with the American organizations may have tainted leaders within their own groups. According to one diplomatic cable, leaders of the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt told the American Embassy in 2009 that some members of the group had accused Ahmed Maher, a leader of the January uprising, and other leaders of “treason” in a mock trial related to their association with Freedom House, which more militant members of the movement described as a “Zionist organization.”

A prominent blogger, according to a cable, threatened to post the information about the movement leaders’ links to Freedom House on his blog.

There is no evidence that this ever happened, and a later cable shows that the group ousted the members who were complaining about Mr. Maher and other leaders.

Interesting also that Foreign Policy, which has Steve Walt as one of its bloggers, is now giving the staunchly pro-Israel Freedom House a platform to advocate for regime change in countries such as Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Talk about skewing foreign policy “while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.”


Maidhc Ó Cathail is a writer and educator. Born and raised in Ireland, he has been living in Osaka, Japan since 1999. is happy that this extremely diverse writer has joined forces with our team. In addition to writing a monthly column for the Irish language internet magazine Beo!, Maidhc's work has been published by, Dissident Voice, Foreign Policy Journal, Khaleej Times, Media Monitors Network, Online Journal, Palestine Chronicle and many more. Maidhc Ó Cathail was asked to join the Salem-News team because of his fantastic world coverage. His reports covering events like the conflict in Palestine, show a fantastic overview of the developing events that are shaping world history. We look forward to sharing stories from this well connected individual with our readers. It is a tough and complicated world out there, and we're all better off with the additional education gleaned from Maidhc Ó Cathail's research and reporting. You can write to Maidhc at:

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