As Martial Law Ends in Bahrain, Will Anyone Notice?


Photo/Flickr: malyousif
This is a guest post by Jonathan Guyer, a program associate at the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force and the official cartoonist of The Washington Note. He also is assistant editor for The Middle East Channel at FP. He blogs at Mideast by Midwest.
Bahrain has lifted its “State of National Safety,” and Saudi and Emirati tanks have begun to exit the small Gulf kingdom. Yet tensions are higher than ever with the Bahraini authorities’ ongoing crackdown on the democratic reform movement. The government’s move to restore an air of stability is too little, too late.
Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa delivered a speech to journalists today in which he attempted to affirm his reformist credentials while avoiding the much-needed actions to back them up.
In his remarks, the monarch discussed the importance of free press, saying: “We confirm to all journalists… no one shall be harmed due to his peaceful, civilized expression of opinion in this state of law and intuitions.” Yet as recently as last week, Bahraini authorities tortured a France 24 reporter. It doesn’t appear that journalists are, as the King described them, “partners in the process of this country’s development.”
Meanwhile, NPR reports that women are the latest target of Bahrain’s crackdown:

Bahraini human rights groups say hundreds of women have been detained in recent weeks. Most were released. Dozens are still being held. One female journalist reportedly was beaten so badly she can’t walk.

It’s time for the US to reassess its policies toward Bahrain, lest America remain complicit in such brutal oppression during an era of hope and change for Middle East. While the US relies upon on Bahrain for strategic cooperation (and real estate — the US’s naval regional naval headquarters is on Bahrain’s shores), the tenability of that relationship is anything but guaranteed. In fact, a US human rights official was removed from his post at the embassy in Manama last week following repeated threats and slurs from pro-government newspapers and websites.
Yesterday, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg met with the Bahraini Foreign Minister. I hope Steinberg wasn’t shy in articulating just how little tolerance the US has for egregious violations of human rights – ranging from destroying Shiite mosques to targeting medical professionals. As might be expected, the Bahraini press hailed the meeting as an expression of strong bilateral relations.
Compare this to President Obama’s Middle East address two weeks ago, in which he warned:

…[M]ass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.

But with those opposition leaders in jail, along with myriad innocent civilians who have been targeted in an arbitrary sectarian campaign against Shia communities, what are the prospects for peaceful dialogue?
As I wrote last week on The Fresh Outlook:

Bahrain is one of those instances where US interests and values have not lined up. With the US’ Fifth Fleet docked on Bahrain’s shores – and over 2,200 Americans living off the base – the furthest Obama can go is wagging his finger…. If the Bahraini regime refuses to heed Washington’s advice, will the Obama administration determine that Bahrain’s authoritarian regime is simply the quid-pro-quo for keeping the Fifth Fleet in its cosy home?
As Obama said last week: “We have the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator,” referring to the individual who sparked the Tunisian revolution and, in turn, the Arab Spring. However, if Washington chooses to ignore the dark side of its military presence in Bahrain – and continues both its implicit and overt support for the repressive Bahraini regime – then US values and interests will remain very much out of synch in the post-Tahrir Square Middle East.

Bahrain is the barometer for the Obama administration’s approach to allies that engage in counter-revolutionary brutality. And the tragedy of what’s happening to peaceful activists in Bahrain will be a stain on the US’s reputation, no matter how much money is pledged to help Egypt or Tunisia in their transition to democracy.
— Jonathan Guyer


31 comments on “As Martial Law Ends in Bahrain, Will Anyone Notice?

  1. Warren Metzler says:

    Relevant, from my perspective, to how the Obama administration’s dealing with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is that today the Federal Government presented an indictment of John Edwards, for illegally spending a little under a million dollars, plus one example of lying. Yet the same Justice Dept., under the direction of the same President, states that no one will be charged from the entire Bush administration, for telling a multitude of lies and having this country spend over one trillion dollars (that is a one million times greater sum than in Edwards case), plus resulting in over 40,000 Americans dying or having serious life long injures,and close to one million Iraqi and Afghanistan citizens dying or having serious life long injuries. Other than pure corruption; Obama’s been promised a massive retirement payout; could one of his supporter tell me what rational thinking process allowed these actions to occur.


  2. Dan Kervick says:

    Interesting how fast the White House pushed back. Are they planning a 2012 October surprise for Iran? They sure aren’t going to win the election on the basis of their incompetent economic performance.


  3. DonS says:

    Not to be ignored either, from Greenwald:
    “Seymour Hersh has a new article in The New Yorker arguing that there is no credible evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons; to the contrary, he writes, “the U.S. could be in danger of repeating a mistake similar to the one made with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq eight years ago
    ” . . . two cowardly, slimy Obama officials ran to Politico to bash Hersh while hiding behind the protective womb of anonymity automatically and subserviently extended by that “news outlet”:
    ” . . . the most hilarious part of this orgy of cowardly anonymity comes at the end, when Politico explains what is supposedly the prime defect in Hersh’ journalism:
    ” Hersh has faced criticism for his heavy reliance on anonymous sources, but New Yorker editor David Remnick has repeatedly said he stands by his reporter


  4. DakotabornKansan says:

    Just too important to fail


  5. questions says:

    Food Fight!!


  6. DakotabornKansan says:

    Human rights trumped yet again


  7. Warren Metzler says:

    I also want to add my congratulations to Steve on his new position. I hope you handle the new job with skill and sophistication.
    Maybe this new home for your blog will provide sufficient funds for a new captcha system? 🙂


  8. paul lukasiak says:

    “add such a senior talent”….
    kinda makes you feel old, don’t it? 🙂


  9. questions says:

    The real state of the union, h/t Thoma:
    20 charts, each clickable to enlarge, each with something about economic inequality.


  10. questions says:

    “Clemons, who helped launch NAF twelve years ago, will remain a senior fellow as he assumes his new role at The Atlantic. He will also move his popular Washington Note blog to The Atlantic.”
    Oh, noes!!!! Are we going to need a “TWN Refugees” site? Don’t go all Nate Silver-legit on us!


  11. questions says:

    “Atlantic Media Company president Justin Smith announced today that Steve Clemons has joined The Atlantic as Editor-in-Chief of AtlanticLIVE and Washington Editor-At-Large for The Atlantic.
    Clemons, who comes to The Atlantic from the think tank New America Foundation, was one of Washington


  12. DakotabornKansan says:

    My congratulations also to Steve!
    The New America Foundation announced that Steve Clemons, the founder and longtime director of the American Strategy Program, is joining the Atlantic Media Company to head that company’s public event efforts.
    Clemons will serve as the Editor-in-Chief of AtlanticLIVE and Washington Editor-at-Large for The Atlantic., and will move his blog, “The Washington Note,” onto He will remain a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, and continue to work with New America on a wide range of issues.
    “Steve has been a vital driver of New America’s success for a decade,” Foundation President Steve Coll said, “most visibly with our conferences and other convenings, but really throughout every corner of the institution. The Atlantic is very lucky to have him, and we’re excited to continue our partnership in the months and years to come.”
    “I’m excited to get to work on the broad portfolio I will have at The Atlantic,” Clemons said, “and to expand the collaborations between both these organizations. New America and The Atlantic first teamed up in 2003 to produce ‘The Real State of the Union’ – a special issue of the magazine and a series of policy events across the country – and have worked together in ways large and small many times since. I’m looking forward to finding more of those opportunities, and pairing the best elements of The Atlantic and New America.”
    For Steve, a man of many hats, a


  13. DakotabornKansan says:

    As martial law ends in Bahrain, will Formula One Racing notice the unrelenting official campaign of punitive retribution?
    Katherine Zoepf of the New York Times reports that


  14. Tank Man says:

    Maybe we can wag our finger at Bahrain when we stop
    slaughtering children in Afghanistan.


  15. rc says:

    “goatherders” is an historically accurate occupational stereotype — like carpenters, or fishermen, or politicians, or journalists.
    These bunch of US supported barnacles give Islam a bad name imo.


  16. Paul Norheim says:

    Congrats. Steve!
    What are the implications for The Washington Note?
    Any changes when the blog gets transferred to The Atlantic?
    Are you quitting NAF?


  17. DonS says:

    Hope that means things get a little more ‘unvarnished’, in a good kind of way.
    Hope it works for Steve.


  18. Paul Norheim says:

    Breaking news:
    Steve Clemons Named Editor-in-Chief of AtlanticLIVE
    By Ujala Sehgal on June 2, 2011 3:59 PM
    Atlantic Media Company president Justin Smith announced today that Steve Clemons has joined The Atlantic as
    Editor-in-Chief of AtlanticLIVE and Washington Editor-At-Large for The Atlantic.
    Clemons, who comes to The Atlantic from the think tank New America Foundation, was one of Washington


  19. rc says:

    I should have added, note old Obama does a nice bow & curtsy before the head goat herder — good to see the head of the US knowing his place.
    Old King George must be laughing his gout off!
    Does Netanyahu get one as well behind the curtain from the Son of Ham? Or is a hall full of DC finger puppets standing up 26 times on cue for the nation’s cameras enough?
    Mind you, it was some time ago and perhaps before he discovered his infinite powers could protect him from any karma blow-back while killing kids in Kabul!


  20. rc says:

    Worth a listen.
    June 2, 2011
    Saudi Arabia and Western Hypocrisy
    Madawi Al-Rasheed: Washington is calling the worst repression in the Arab world “evolving reform”
    Protest is not part of the culture?
    Where the f__k did the Islamic phenomena emerge from — a frigging rock?


  21. rc says:

    A raving Wahhabi pedophile system catapulted out of the dark ages raising goats into a modern technical world without any socio-political transformation, and maintained by the US as a strategic anchor function for sucking up all spare printed US paper money from the market for oil and channeling it back into the US military industrial complex for cargo.
    What the f__k has democracy (or women driving cars) go to do with it?
    No doubt the Bahrain dictatorship is now going non-critical is because they have rounded up and imprisoned and/or ‘disappeared’ enough of the Shiite population to have them all cowering in fear.
    So Washington, when are they having free and open elections in Bahrain and the Saudi family’s Arabia? Before or after Libya has their free and democratic post-NATO blitzkrieg elections?
    I’ll be looking forward to hearing the voices of these nation’s 51% in the UN down the track.
    So where is ‘Wonder Woman’ Clinton on this child-sex slave trade issue? Missing in action? Or holidaying 5* down in Haiti watching the natives eat shit and dirt?


  22. bigbag says:

    Those Saudis really are evil mofos.


  23. DakotabornKansan says:

    Bahrain has lifted its “State of National Safety


  24. paul lukasiak says:

    “Bahrain has lifted its “State of National Safety,” and Saudi and Emirati tanks have begun to exit the small Gulf kingdom.”
    Any word on who is replacing these forces? Could it be Eric ‘we’re-not-calling-it-Blackwater-anymore’ Prince’s 800 strong mercenary force?


  25. JohnH says:

    And what about the US’ own state of emergency?
    And what about the secret part of the Patriot Act, the executive branch’s secret interpretations of its authority under the Patriot Act?
    Instead of citing US policy in Bahrain, Guyer could have said “[The United States] is one of those instances where US interests and values have not lined up.”


  26. DonS says:

    “And the tragedy of what’s happening to peaceful activists in Bahrain will be a stain on the US’s reputation”
    And to paraphrase the post title, “Will anyone care?”.
    Shall I hold my breath for anyone in the administration to speak unelliptically? The US’ selective outrage, intervention, blind eye syndrome, equivocation, justification and rationalization in it’s reaction towards other nations violation of human rights is becoming something of a joke. Except we’re supposed to pretend they’re very serious persons with very serious concerns.
    Given the US’ own record at home and abroad no one should be surprised that there is no consistent policy towards human rights, civil rights and political rights. What’s surprising is that administration mouthpieces from Obama, Clinton on down can disgorge their garbage with a straight face.
    It’s all about gaming the system. No honorable principles that are reflected in actual policy underlying actual action. That train left the station long ago. Seems like the DC geniuses aren’t smart enough to populate a post-cold war government. They’re good at boosting the plutocrats, though.


  27. Dana Hammod says:

    Thank you Jonathan Guyer for this excellent post. It is really
    time for our president to make it clear to alkhalifa that we will
    not support thir tyranny against their own people. We should
    support the Bahraini people aspiration toward democracy just
    like we support it for Iranians, syrians and others. The Bahrain
    regime is not any better than gaddafi or Assad.


  28. ... says:

    couldn’t be about the oil… lol..
    they are good dictators cause they are our dictators… the usa is for freedom and democracy my ass………..


  29. ... says:

    folks notice the usa’s double standards with regard to which country is out of bounds for any change and which one’s have ‘regime’ change… wonder if it has anything to do with where the usa navy is located in the area? lol…………….


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