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How The Tiny Kingdom Of Bahrain Strong-Armed The President Of The United States
Crossposted with TomDispatch.com.
The males strolling down the street regarded atypical enough. Extraordinary, not less than, for these days of tumult and protest in the Middle East. They wore sneakers and denims and long-sleeved T-shirts. Some waved the nationwide flag. Many held their palms up high. Some flashed peace indicators. A number had been chanting, “Peaceful, peaceful.”
Up ahead, video footage reveals, armored personnel carriers sat in the road waiting. In a deadly raid the earlier day, security forces had cleared professional-democracy protesters from the Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. This evening, the males had been headed again to make their voices heard.
The unmistakable crack-crack-crack of gunfire then erupted, and a lot of the men scattered. Most, however not all. Video footage shows three who by no means made it off the blacktop. One in an aqua shirt and darkish track pants was unmistakably shot in the head. Within the time it takes for the camera to pan from his body to the armored vehicles and back, he’s visibly misplaced a large amount of blood.
Human Rights Watch would later report that Redha Bu Hameed died of a gunshot wound to the head.
That incident, which occurred on February 18th, was one in all a series of violent actions by Bahrain’s safety forces that left seven lifeless and greater than 200 injured last month. Reviews noted that peaceful protesters had been hit not only by rubber bullets and shotgun pellets, but — as in the case of Bu Hameed — by live rounds.
The bullet that took Bu Hameed’s life may have been paid for by U.S. taxpayers and given to the Bahrain Defense Pressure by the U.S. military. The connection represented by that bullet (or so many others prefer it) between Bahrain, a tiny country of principally Shia Muslim residents ruled by a Sunni king, and the Pentagon has just lately proven more highly effective than American democratic ideals, extra highly effective even than the president of the United States.
Simply how American bullets make their means into Bahraini guns, into weapons used by troops suppressing professional-democracy protesters, opens a wider window into the shadowy relationships between the Pentagon and numerous autocratic states in the Arab world. Look intently and outlines emerge of the methods in which the Pentagon and those oil-rich nations have pressured the White Home to help subvert the favored democratic will sweeping across the higher Middle East.
Bullets and Blackhawks
A TomDispatch analysis of Protection Department paperwork signifies that, since the nineteen nineties, the United States has transferred giant portions of military materiel, starting from trucks and aircraft to machine-gun elements and millions of rounds of reside ammunition, to Bahrain’s security forces.
In response to data from the Protection Security Cooperation Company, the branch of the federal government that coordinates gross sales and transfers of military gear to allies, the U.S. has sent Bahrain dozens dr who sweatshirt of “excess” American tanks, armored personnel carriers, and helicopter gunships. The U.S. has also given the Bahrain Defense Force 1000’s of .38 caliber pistols and tens of millions of rounds of ammunition, from giant-caliber cannon shells to bullets for handguns. To take one instance, the U.S. provided Bahrain with enough .50 caliber rounds — used in sniper rifles and machine guns — to kill every Bahraini in the kingdom four times over. The Protection Security Cooperation Agency didn’t reply to repeated requests for data and clarification.
In addition to all these gifts of weaponry, ammunition, and combating autos, the Pentagon in coordination with the State Department oversaw Bahrain’s buy of greater than $386 million in defense objects and companies from 2007 to 2009, the last three years on record. These offers included the purchase of a variety of objects from automobiles to weapons techniques. Simply this past summer season, to cite one example, the Pentagon introduced a multimillion-greenback contract with Sikorsky Aircraft to customise nine Black Hawk helicopters for Bahrain’s Protection Pressure.
On February 14th, reacting to a rising protest movement with violence, Bahrain’s safety forces killed one demonstrator and wounded 25 others. In the times of continued unrest that adopted, stories reached the White House that Bahraini troops had fired on professional-democracy protesters from helicopters. (Bahraini officials responded that witnesses had mistaken a telephoto lens on a camera for a weapon.) Bahrain’s army additionally reportedly opened hearth on ambulances that came to are likely to the wounded and mourners who had dropped to their knees to pray.
“We call on restraint from the government,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated in the wake of Bahrain’s crackdown. “We urge a return to a process that can lead to actual, meaningful modifications for the folks there.” President Obama was much more forceful in remarks addressing state violence in Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen: “The United States condemns the usage of violence by governments in opposition to peaceful protesters in those international locations, and wherever else it may occur.”
Phrase then emerged that, underneath the provisions of a regulation known because the Leahy Amendment, the administration was actively reviewing whether military support to numerous models or branches of Bahrain’s safety forces needs to be cut off resulting from human-rights violations. “There’s evidence now that abuses have occurred,” a senior congressional aide instructed the Wall Avenue Journal in response to video footage of police and navy violence in Bahrain. “The question is particularly which units committed these abuses and whether or not any of our help was utilized by them.”
Within the weeks since, Washington has markedly softened its tone. Based on a latest report by Julian Barnes and Adam Entous within the Wall Street Journal, this resulted from a lobbying campaign directed at high officials at the Pentagon and the much less highly effective State Department by emissaries of Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and his allies within the Middle East. In the end, the Arab foyer ensured that, when it came to Bahrain, the White Home wouldn’t support “regime change,” as in Egypt or Tunisia, but a method of theoretical future reform some diplomats at the moment are calling “regime alteration.”
The six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council embody (along with Bahrain) Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all of which have in depth ties to the Pentagon. The organization reportedly sturdy-armed the White House by taking part in on fears that Iran may benefit if Bahrain embraced democracy and that, in consequence, your complete area might turn out to be destabilized in ways inimical to U.S. power-projection policies. “Starting with Bahrain, the administration has moved a number of notches towards emphasizing stability over majority rule,” in line with a U.S. official quoted by the Journal. “All people realized that Bahrain was simply too important to fail.”
It’s an oddly acquainted phrase, so near “too big to fail,” last used earlier than the government bailed out the giant insurance firm AIG and main financial corporations like Citigroup after the worldwide economic meltdown of 2008. Bahrain is, after all, a small island within the Persian Gulf, but additionally it is the home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which the Pentagon counts as an important asset within the area. It is broadly thought of a stand-in for neighboring Saudi Arabia, America’s gas station in the Gulf, and for Washington, a nation much too important ever to fail.
The Pentagon’s relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council nations has been cemented in several key ways seldom emphasized in American reporting on the area. Military support is one key issue. Bahrain alone took dwelling $20 million in U.S. army help last yr. In an allied space, there is the hardly ever discussed triangular marriage between protection contractors, the Gulf states, and the Pentagon. The six Gulf nations (together with regional companion Jordan) are set to spend $70 billion on weaponry and gear this yr, and as a lot as $80 billion per 12 months by 2015. As the Pentagon appears to be like for tactics to shore up the financial viability of weapons makers in tough economic occasions, the deep pockets of the Gulf States have taken on particular significance.
Starting last October, the Pentagon started secretly lobbying financial analysts and huge institutional buyers, talking up weapons makers and other military contractors it buys from to bolster their long-term monetary viability in the face of a doable future drop in Protection Department spending. The Gulf States signify another avenue toward the same purpose. It’s often stated that the Pentagon is a “monopsony,” the one purchaser in city for its many big contractors, but that isn’t solely true.
The Pentagon can be the only real conduit by way of which its Arab companions within the Gulf should purchase essentially the most superior weaponry on Earth. By acting as a go-between, the Pentagon can ensure that the weapons manufacturers it depends on might be financially sound well into the future. A $60 billion deal with Saudi Arabia this past fall, for example, ensured that Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and other mega-defense contractors would stay wholesome and profitable even when Pentagon spending goes slack or begins to shrink in the years to come. Pentagon reliance on Gulf money, however, has a worth. It couldn’t have taken the Arab foyer long to explain how shortly their spending spree might come to an end if a cascade of revolutions immediately turned the region democratic.
An even more important side of the connection between the Gulf states and the Division of Protection is the Pentagon’s shadowy archipelago of bases throughout the Middle East. While the Pentagon hides or downplays the existence of lots of them, and while Gulf international locations usually conceal their existence from their own populations as much as attainable, the U.S. army maintains websites in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and of course Bahrain — homeport for the Fifth Fleet, whose 30 ships, including two aircraft carriers, patrol the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea.
Doughnuts Not Democracy
Final week, peaceful protesters aligned against Bahrain’s monarchy gathered outside the U.S. embassy in Manama carrying signs reading “Stop Supporting Dictators,” “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Loss of life,” and “The Folks Need Democracy.” Many of them have been ladies.
Ludovic Hood, a U.S. embassy official, reportedly introduced a box of doughnuts out to the protesters. “These sweets are a great gesture, however we hope it is translated into sensible actions,” said Mohammed Hassan, who wore the white turban of a cleric. Zeinab al-Khawaja, a protest leader, advised Al Jazeera that she hoped the U.S. wouldn’t be drawn into Bahrain’s uprising. “We want America to not get involved, we will overthrow this regime,” she mentioned.
The United States is, nonetheless, already Women’s Cotton Hello Boys Short Sleeve T Shirts deeply concerned. To one aspect it’s given a field of doughnuts; to the other, helicopter gunships, armored personnel carriers, and hundreds of thousands of bullets — gear that performed a significant position in the recent violent crackdowns.
In the midst of the violence, Human Rights Watch known as upon the United States and other international donors to right away suspend military help to Bahrain. The British government introduced that it had begun a evaluate of its military exports, whereas France suspended exports of any army tools to the kingdom. Although the Obama administration, too, has begun a review, money talks as loudly in overseas coverage as it does in domestic politics. The lobbying campaign by the Pentagon and its Center Japanese partners is more likely to sideline any serious move toward an arms export minimize-off, leaving the U.S. once once more in familiar territory — supporting an anti-democratic ruler against his people.
“Without revisiting all of the events over the past three weeks, I think history will end up recording that at every juncture within the situation in Egypt that we were on the best side of history,” President Obama explained after the fall of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak — an overstatement, to say the least, given the administration’s combined messages until Mubarak’s departure was a fait accompli. But in terms of Bahrain, even such half-hearted assist for change appears increasingly out of bounds.
Final year, the U.S. Navy and the federal government of Bahrain hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a building challenge slated to develop 70 acres of prime waterfront property in Manama. Scheduled for completion in 2015, the advanced is slated to include new port services, barracks for troops, administrative buildings, a dining facility, and a recreation heart, amongst other amenities, at a worth tag of $580 million. “The funding in the waterfront development challenge will present a better high quality of life for our Sailors and coalition companions, well into the longer term,” mentioned Lieutenant Commander Keith Benson of the Navy’s Bahrain contingent on the time. “This challenge signifies a persevering with relationship and the belief, friendship and camaraderie that exists between the U.S. and Bahraini naval forces.”
As it happens, that sort of “camaraderie” seems to be extra highly effective than the President of the United States’ commitment to support peaceful, democratic change in the oil-rich area. After Mubarak’s ouster, Obama noted that “it was the ethical power of nonviolence, not terrorism, not senseless killing, but nonviolence, ethical power, that bent the arc of historical past toward justice as soon as extra.” The Pentagon, in accordance with the Wall Avenue Journal, has joined the effort to bend the arc of historical past in a different route — towards Bahrain’s pro-democracy protesters. Its cozy relationships with arms dealers and autocratic Arab states, cemented by big defense contracts and shadowy navy bases, explain why.
White House officials claim that their help for Bahrain’s monarchy isn’t unconditional and that they count on rapid progress on actual reforms. What which means, nevertheless, is evidently up to the Pentagon. It’s notable that late last week one prime U.S. official traveled to Bahrain. He wasn’t a diplomat. And he didn’t meet with the opposition. (Not even for a doughnut-drop photograph op.) Secretary of Protection Robert Gates arrived for talks with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa to convey, said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, “reassurance of our assist.”
“I’m convinced that they each are severe about real reform and about transferring forward,” Gates mentioned afterward. At the same time, he raised the specter of Iran. Whereas granting that the regime there had but to foment protests across the region, Gates asserted, “there is evident proof that as the method is protracted — notably in Bahrain — that the Iranians are wanting for ways to use it and create problems.”
The Secretary of Protection expressed sympathy for Bahrain’s rulers being “between a rock and onerous place” and different officials have asserted that the aspirations of the professional-democracy protesters in the street have been inhibiting substantive talks with extra moderate opposition groups. “I suppose what the government wants is for everybody to take a deep breath and provide slightly house for this dialogue to go forward,” he stated. Ultimately, he informed reporters, U.S. prospects for continued navy basing in Bahrain had been strong. “I do not see any evidence that our presence will probably be affected in the close to- or center-term,” Gates added.
Within the quick wake of Gates’ go to, the Gulf Cooperation Council has conspicuously sent a contingent of Saudi troops into Bahrain to help put down the protests. Cowed by the Pentagon and its partners within the Arab lobby, the Obama administration has seemingly cast its lot with Bahrain’s anti-democratic forces and left little ambiguity as to which aspect of history it’s actually on.
Nick Turse is an historian, essayist, investigative journalist, the associate editor of TomDispatch.com, and at present a fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. His newest e book is The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso Books). He can also be the creator of The Complicated: How the Army Invades Our Everyday Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Fb. His website is dr who sweatshirt NickTurse.com.