Weighing Western Human Rights Policies towards Turkey, Iran and Egypt

Katerina Dalacoura

This study explores some of the options facing Western policy-makers in the Middle East after the 2003 war in Iraq.

The Al-Qaeda attacks against the United States on 11 September 2001 led many to argue that authoritarianism in the Middle East negatively affected international politics and Western interests by fuelling the rise of a violent Islamism. How then could Western states effectively promote human rights and democracy in the region? This timely study explores some of the options facing Western policy-makers in the Middle East after the war in Iraq in March-April 2003. Drawing on the experience of the 1990s, it assesses the successes and failures of US and European human rights policies in encouraging reform in Turkey, Iran and Egypt during the post-Cold War period.

Dalacoura argues that the impact of Western human rights policies on these three countries was limited and that policies produced results mainly when they coincided with domestic trends towards liberalization. Nevertheless, although outcomes remained modest, human rights policies were at their most effective when Western states opted for engagement - exercising political and diplomatic pressure, voicing criticism, and expressing concern in a consistent but low-key manner.
A coercive policy of economic sanctions, aid conditionality and diplomatic isolation, by contrast, tended to produce negative outcomes.