By Javad Heirannia

Plan to sell arms to Bahrain shows Trump’s disregard for human rights: professor 

April 4, 2017 - 13:37

TEHRAN - A George Washington University professor says a decision by the sitting U.S. administration to sell weapons to Bahrain without the human rights conditions imposed by the Obama administration shows that President Trump as is a “businessman” who “has little time for human rights”.

Hossein Askari, an international business experts, also tells the Tehran Times that if Iran had a strong economy now “Trump would be knocking on Iran’s door instead of threatening” it.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: The Trump administration drops human rights conditions to sell F-16 fighter jets to Bahrain. How do you analyze this move?

A: I believe that the Trump Administration wants to show results and has little time for human rights. Trump is a businessman. He wants to close deals. He does not consider the messy fallouts of the deal.  He wants to have good relations with the countries of the GCC and especially with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. Trump and his family have done business with these countries and his sons are continuing to do so and hope to do even more when their father is not President. It is in the Trump business interest to have good relations with these rich monarchies/sheikdoms. 

Q: Is Saudi Arabia behind this move?

A: Absolutely! The king of Saudi Arabia is the de facto ruler of Bahrain. Saudi Arabia is the financial backer of Bahrain. Saudi Arabia is willing to pay Bahrain’s bills. Because Bahrain is connected to Saudi Arabia the Al-Sauds want to eradicate any idea of democratic movements in Bahrain. If Bahrain, which is 65% Shia, gets any idea of democratic governance, Saudi Arabia fears that it will spread to its Eastern province, where most of the Saudi Shia live and where most of its oil is found. In the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia the Shia live in poverty and have little rights. So Saudi Arabia wants to make sure that the Shia of Bahrain (the majority of Muslims on the island) are no better off than those in Saudi Arabia. Simply said, the Al-Sauds see a democratic Bahrain as a political attack on Saudi Arabia and a Bahrain ruled by Shia as the beginning of the end of their rule.

George Washington University professor says “the Al-Sauds want to eradicate any idea of democratic movements in Bahrain.”Q: How do you think Iran should respond to this?

A: You may recall that Iran has long had territorial claims to Bahrain. In 1971, Iran agreed to abide by the results of a plebiscite giving a choice to the inhabitants—if they wanted to be an independent nation. They chose independence and Iran kept its pledge. But over the last 25 years, Saudi Arabia has treated Bahrain as one of its provinces. Moreover, Saudi troops, tanks and money supported the brutal crackdown in response to peaceful protests. Bahrain even hired mercenaries from Pakistan! The question is whether Bahrain is in fact an independent nation? I am not an international lawyer, but it would seem that if Saudi Arabia does not take its hands off Bahrain, afford it independence and remove all troops and mercenaries, and soon, then the results of the plebiscite are null and void. Iran should take a diplomatic approach but make this point to Saudi Arabia.  

Q: The U.S. has relaxed the rules of engagement in the region. What does it mean for civilians?

A: Essentially, American forces will attack as before but now they will worry much less about collateral damage, especially the killing of civilians and other innocent bystanders. I think this change in policy is a big mistake. Civilian deaths have occurred before but with this change in policy we will see more deaths. And this will escalate the cycle of violence from every side. Families will seek revenge and hostilities will increase. 

Q: Broadly speaking, how should Iran respond to the Trump administration?

A: Let me start out by repeating something I have said many times over the last 30 years. Iran must develop a strong economy if it wants to restore its image and regain a bigger role in the world. But this will not happen until the country develops effective institutions and policies. This must start with the rule of law and business related institutions that afford confidence to both Iranians as well as foreigners. If Iran were in such a position today, Trump would be knocking on Iran’s door instead of threatening Iran! Iran’s economy is weak. It does not grow fast enough. It does not provide good jobs that its educated young men and women want. Corruption is everywhere. Foreigners are afraid to invest in Iran unless Iran gives them a great deal. 
So my answer is don’t put off needed economic reforms. Do them now. Iran has lost 29 years since the Iran-Iraq War. If Iran had used these years well, its economy would be a giant. If you don’t start soon, you will be left decades behind. Be thoughtful in the reforms. Have long-term goals with medium-term initiatives.  At the same time, don’t provoke Trump but stand firm. If you provoke, even a limited conflict now could be devastating for Iran; and if you don’t stand firm, you will get pressured more and more.

Leave a Comment

3 + 14 =