West’s duplicity in Bahrain

May 16, 2011

Although a number of articles are written every day in the U.S. press on the NATO strikes against Libya and the participation of U.S. forces in this military campaign, the U.S. press has barely addressed the issue of Bahrain.   However, what is occurring in Bahrain is no less grave than the situation in Libya.

Storming mosques and Hosseiniyas (congregation halls for Shia ritual ceremonies), setting houses on fire, arresting and torturing physicians, raping women, as well as the fact that dozens of people have gone missing and a former Bahraini MP died under torture, are issues that cannot be ignored by Western countries, which are the self-proclaimed standard-bearers of human rights.   Although Arab media outlets have also remained silent, Bahraini protesters expect Western human rights organizations to do something for them.     Zainab al-Khawaja, the daughter of one of the detained protesters, recently went on hunger strike and wrote a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, who claimed that the U.S. entered the war in Libya to protect the lives of the people, but he did not reply to her letter.    Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have paid attention to the issue of Bahrain, but governments that have the power to do something and to exert pressure on the Al Khalifa government have not adequately addressed the Bahrain issue.    Meanwhile, certain research centers and think tanks connected with decision-making circles in the United States are not only ignoring what the military forces, which were dispatched to Bahrain under the aegis of the Peninsula Shield Force created by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC), are doing in the country, but have also highlighted the role of this council.   In a recent report, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which is affiliated with the Zionist lobby, advised Obama to make efforts to better understand the concerns of Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud.   The institute emphasized that the U.S. should maintain its friendly relations with the PGCC member states and should cooperate with these countries, not only to retain its control over the region’s extensive oil and gas reserves but also to facilitate its military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and to contain Iran.
The institute also pointed to the $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.   The Brookings Institution has also turned a blind eye to what is taking place in Bahrain but has hailed the position that the PGCC has adopted toward certain countries outside the Persian Gulf region, namely Libya and Yemen.   On the other hand, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has suggested that the United States should withdraw its troops from Iraq and assure the friendly Persian Gulf littoral states that it will not abandon them.
The CSIS also said that instead of maintaining a direct presence in these countries, the U.S. should train the security forces of these countries just as it trained the Saudi Arabian National Guard.   In addition, on April 20, 2011, Foreign Policy magazine indirectly hailed Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Bahrain and wrote that the intervention indicates that Arab states do not just address their own internal affairs but are also concerned about what is happening around them.     However, certain writers and some U.S. newspapers have published articles on the suffering of the Bahraini people.   Karen Leigh, in an article published in Time magazine on April 27, 2011, asked why Bahrain is trying civilians before a military court.   She noted that the military court in Bahrain convicted four Shia protesters and sentenced them to death for the murder of two policemen during anti-government demonstrations in May in the Persian Gulf kingdom, and three other Shia activists were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the policemen’s deaths.
Leigh added, “Bahrain’s military prosecutor said the seven men are being tried under a 2006 anti-terrorism law which mandates the death penalty. The statute has long been criticized by international rights groups as being vague, providing a too-broad definition of what qualifies as terrorism.”     Michael Slackman and Stefan Pauly, in an article published in the New York Times on April 28, 2011, wrote that U.S. officials have closed their eyes to developments in Bahrain and pointed to the U.S. alliance with the Al Khalifa regime.    The Washington Post, in an article published on April 4, 2011, commented on the Bahrain issue and wrote that the Bahraini government is brutally suppressing the Shias.   And the Aljazeera television network presented appalling details about the torture of women in detention facilities in Bahrain.   It seems that the media climate is different than the climate prevailing at institutions affiliated with decision-making circles of power.   As we discussed, the centers affiliated with decision-makers have emphasized that U.S. officials should maintain their relations with Saudi Arabia and the PGCC while the media has addressed what is going on in Bahrain, though briefly.
U.S. newspapers have also reported that two political camps exist in the White House in regard to developments in the Arab world, one that is idealistic and the other pragmatic.    According to these newspapers, the idealistic White House officials maintain that the Obama Administration should focus on U.S. values, such as respect for human rights and freedom, when intervening in the affairs of other countries. On the other hand, the pragmatic White House officials maintain that the U.S. government should only take its own interests into consideration and devise its strategies based solely on those interests.
According to a number of reports, the U.S. Congress hosted the representatives of Bahraini human rights organizations at a meeting held on May 13, 2011, in order to be briefed on what is taking place in Bahrain.   It is said that Maryam al-Khawaja, the sister of Zainab al-Khawaja, attended the meeting and spoke about the atrocities being committed by the Al Khalifa government.
But will U.S. officials sacrifice their strategic relations with Saudi Arabia for humanitarian values, particularly now that former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whom the U.S. regarded as an element contributing to the balance of power, has been ousted, and Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been left to their own devices and are in need of U.S. support?    On the other hand, the PGCC recently invited Morocco and Jordan to attend its meetings. This invitation could be indicative of a number of things, including that the U.S. is making attempts to strike a new balance of power or to gather representatives of all kingdoms together in one council.   However, it is still not clear if the PGCC invitation will lead to the accession of these two countries or if powerful countries like Qatar will agree to the new make-up, particularly now that Qatar has withdrawn from the PGCC initiative on Yemen.