Saturday, 23 April 2011

Syria, Bahrain, and strategic interest.

On the White House blog, Obama’s statement about yesterday’s attacks on protesters by Syrian government forces, in which between 70 and 100 were killed. More on events there in EA World View’s posts from yesterday and today.
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From ABC News Australia, Kingdom Undercover, a 24 minute film about the ongoing brutal suppression of dissent in Bahrain, by Trevor Bormann, via @weddady. An excerpt on the regime’s crackdown inside Salmaniya Hospital:
BORMANN: Inside masked and heavily armed soldiers roam the corridors. They have tight control of a place that became a central feature of the power struggle here.

They were nights of utter chaos as the injured arrived with supporters and family in tow, medical staff could barely cope with the sheer number of casualties. One doctor it seems revealed a little too much.

DR BASSEM DEIF: “Definitely live ammunition because the femur, the bone, is completely shattered”.

BORMANN: For his candid diagnosis – exposing the government’s use of live rounds – orthopaedic surgeon Bassem Deif was arrested – his family have not heard of him since. Six other doctors are in prison for apparently sympathising with protesters.
Later parts of the film provide evidence of indiscriminate attacks against villages by security forces.
BORMANN: The protest movement broken and dispersed, the Bahraini Royal family is now obliterating all of its opponents once and for all. In Shiite villages, internal security forces sweep through night and day, terrorising and taking men away to an uncertain fate.

They linger for no apparent reason but to menace and destroy property at random. Neighbours who cower in fear can still manage to record the event to feed to the outside world. This village leader asked us to obscure his identity and change his voice.

VILLAGE LEADER: “If they want to get some specific people, they come at night - say three… four o’clock - and then they know that people are in their houses and they attack their houses with a big group. And then they walk around and around the whole area and whenever they capture anybody they just knock him down, hit him badly with their shoes and their hands and then they try to steal their money”.

BORMANN: The security forces have free reign here. They target and intimidate mainly the young men of the village. Anyone identified in our story is very likely to be jailed but filming this man’s back was enough to tell his story. He’d been hit with a shotgun blast. It’s a painful and disfiguring wound.

MAN (Describing incident): He was sitting opposite my home... he was sitting outside... and they have... a policeman came and he shot him. He was just sitting outside at home. That’s it.

BORMANN: I was ushered to a house to meet other young men. They too had been shot in the back. It’s dangerous to be seen in a group anywhere in this neighbourhood. The injuries should have been treated in hospital but they know that’s where they can be found.
Film and transcript here.

From ModernityBlog, Bahrain ruling elite attack doctors, pointing to a report by The Independent, and giving some links on Britain’s history with Bahrain.

Also from Modernity, CNN on Bahrain, a report by Amber Lyon featuring Richard Sollom of Physicians for Human Rights, and Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch.

Richard Sollom describes abuses by Bahrain forces as horrific, widespread and systematic, and says that more than 30 doctors and medics have been arrested, and believes they are targeted because they are the ones who have “specific evidence of the atrocities by the Bahraini government.”

Joe Stork on international reaction to Bahrain: “I think it has definitely been put on the back burner, but I think it’s because of the involvement of Saudi Arabia, and the strategic importance that the United States, the UK, other governments, see with Bahrain. And I think that’s the reason they are being treated very much with kid gloves.”

Later in the video, he goes on to say, “We do know that the Obama administration has been raising these issues with Bahraini authorities behind the scenes.”

Elliot Abrams, Bahrain Heads for Disaster, via @abuaardvark. An excerpt:
It is difficult to understand why the King believes this path leads anywhere but exile in London for him and his family. Bahrain has a Shia majority (once estimated at 70 percent, but probably lower than that now due to a campaign of naturalization of foreign-born Sunnis, especially those who serve in the army and police). The current actions against the Shia community will embitter all its members and decapitate its moderate political, economic, religious, and moral leadership. Future compromises will be far more difficult, and are perhaps already impossible.
Read more.

White House blog posts on Bahrain.
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The conventional Realist argument is that the alliance with the Bahrain government serves US and UK national interests, protecting oil supplies and countering Iranian influence. But as I argued earlier, an alliance can only be regarded as stable if it is based on an alignment of interests with all parties acting in their own national interest. Clearly the Bahrain government, by making an enemy of its own population, is not serving its own national interest.

Western interests in Bahrain lie in an alignment with the population of Bahrain. The perception, promoted by Iran, that the West is aligned with the interests of the Bahrain government against the interests of the population risks severe long term strategic damage to Western interests. Merely “raising these issues with Bahraini authorities behind the scenes” is not enough as this fuels the negative perception and further risks making an enemy of the population, as happened in Iran under the Shah.

Active public solidarity with the people of Bahrain is the only way to properly serve US and UK interests. A policy on Bahrain more clearly consistent with policy on Syria and Iran would also better serve the cause of democracy in those countries.

1 comment:

jams o donnell said...

I agre with you totally Kellie. Treating Bahrain so differently sticks in my craw. Perhaps some regime change in Saudi is needed too.