Saudi-Backed Crackdown in Bahrain Exposes US Hypocrisy
Although U.S. officials condemned Bahrain's use of deadly force against unarmed protestors on Wednesday, experts say the Obama administration is reticent to support the people because the Bahraini monarchy best serves U.S. regional interests. Critics accuse the U.S. of employing a double-standard - reluctant to oust the monarchy in Bahrain but more than willing to encourage Libyans to topple Moammar Gaddafi.
The U.S. is also hesitant to criticize Sunni ally Saudi Arabia, which invaded Bahrain on Tuesday at the request of Bahrain's Sunni royal family to quell Shiite protests. Mideast expert Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times can kick a door open in one's mind with his perspectives on these events, as he did on Thursday:
Let's imagine that neo-Napoleonic French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio "Bunga Bunga" Berlusconi decided to send North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops to help not the Libyan rebels but Muammar "King of Kings" Gaddafi to protect his "sensitive installations". After all, as Gaddafi assured the world, these rebels are "terrorists".
That's exactly what happened with the House of Saud sending armored carriers, tanks and 1,000 troops - part of "Peninsula Shield" forces - to Bahrain to repress an unarmed, civilian, domestic opposition (al-Qaeda or Iran "terrorists", take your pick) demanding political reform.
John Kerry said about the Libyan crisis that, "The US and world community must show they will not stand by while this thug Gaddafi uses air power to murder fellow Libyans." But why are Kerry and the world community willing to stand by as Bahrain's al-Khalifa family and the Saudis do the same? Escobar provides another mind-bending analogy: Imagine the outrage in the "international community" - and the calls to start carpet-bombing right away - if this was Iran invading Lebanon.
The U.S. fears it will lose its naval base in Bahrain should the government come under the control of Shiites - who, despite making up 70% of Bahrain's population, have lived under the thumb of Sunni royals for over 200 years. And such a move would tip the regional balance of power towards the Shiite Iranians.
Many believe Tehran is behind the current agitation and has future plans to install its own puppet government. Not only will the Iranians get rid of the U.S. 5th fleet if this should materailize, but they will then hold a strategic point near the straits of Hormuz where 20% of the U.S oil supply passes.
The defect in the Iranian bogeyman theory was highlighted by Defence Secretary Robert Gates a few days ago when he disclosed that the U.S. and its allies lack sufficient proof to substantiate claims of Iranian subversion. Gates told reporters:
"I expressed the view that we had no evidence that suggested that Iran started any of these popular revolutions or demonstrations across the region." Less definitive proof, it would be hard to justify supporting the repressive monarchy based on U.S. suspicion of Iranian covert shenanigans.
For those who refuse to believe the Bahraini movement is a legitimate peaceful struggle for democracy, look at the "tweets" of Bahraini citizens that capture the brutality of the crackdowns and reports from journalists on the ground, which have painted an image of repression not unlike what was seen in Tahrir Square in Cairo.
The West's hankering for a military incursion into Libya has established a precedent of the worst sort, because it provides justification for the Saudis to do things like invade Bahrain, although they don't have to explain anything to the U.S.
The Mideast tumult has elucidated the unholy alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, illustrating that the globe's leading democracy is in bed with one of the most repressive regimes on earth -- a partnership fundamentally based on oil and containing Iran.
As a matter of fact, throughout the historic protests Saudi Arabia has acted as a safe haven for dictators. The House of Saud provided sanctuary to Tunisia's tyrant Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, was more than willing to host Egypt's Mubarak and will likely extend a hand to Yemen's despot, Ali Abdullah Saleh, once his regime falls.
America's sudden moral outrage with Gaddafi is comical considering that Libya at 158 ranked higher than U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, which came in at 160, in the Economist's 2010 democracy index of 167 countries. Other U.S. allies didn't fare much better, with Egypt ranked 138, Tunisia 144, and Yemen 146.
Especially since the invasion of Iraq, America's "moral capital" has eroded over the years, exacerbated by duplicitous dealings with these repressive regimes, which is why the U.S. was practically irrelevant to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia; hence, the Obama administration's Mideast policy is now suffering from acute paralysis.
Who knows what the solution is, but the U.S. should think twice before intervening for "humanitarian" reasons in Libya if it's unwilling to do the same elsewhere.
© 2010 The Sunday Times