Posted on March 16th, 2011
Today, the White House confirmed, see here, that it was “aware, obviously, of the invitation” extended to Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain. But U.S. government officials continue to decline to say what Secretary of Defense Gates said or did not say to his Bahraini interlocutors 36 hours before Saudi Arabia’s military offensive. And, U.S. government officials have refused to call for the removal of foreign troops from Bahrain.
For many in Iran, and indeed for Shia throughout the Persian Gulf, this is painfully reminiscent of American silence when Iraq invaded the Islamic Republic in 1980. And, as it became clear that the United States was supporting Saddam Hussein in his war of aggression against Iran, it seems increasingly likely that the Obama Administration will be seen as supporting the use of armed force against a Shia majority population in Bahrain.
In this regard, it is telling that the Obama Administration refuses to call for democracy in Bahrain. According to the White House spokesman, President Obama, in phone conversations with Saudi King Abdullah and Bahraini King Hamad, “stressed the importance of a political process as the only way to peacefully address the legitimate grievances of Bahrainis and to lead to a Bahrain that is stable, just, more unified and responsive to its people.”
As Hillary Mann Leverett pointed out anew today on Al Jazeera, see here, the way the Obama Administration is speaking about what Saudi and Bahraini security forces are doing is strikingly similar to the way in which the United States speaks about how Israel treats Palestinians. In both cases, Washington exhorts all parties to show restraint and not to do anything that would undermine possibilities for dialogue. And, in both cases, it criticizes people trying to defend their rights for “instigating violence.” The contrast between this and the way in which the Obama Administration insists that Qaddafi “must go” should prompt serious questioning of the real motives for U.S. policy.
The real difference is this: Qaddafi is never going to carry America’s water again. But, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are key to America’s ability to project military power in the Persian Gulf. If Bahrain got a government that actually represented the sentiments of its people, the U.S. Fifth Fleet might not get kicked out immediately—but, for sure, that government would not allow U.S. military forces operating out of Bahrain would to be used in an attack against Iran. And that would mean the Obama administration could no longer credibly claim that “all options are on the table” against Iran.
So, in order to cover up for its failed Iran policy, the Obama Administration is prepared to put America’s long-term strategic position in the region and American lives at risk. For, at this point, the United States is coming to be seen as complicit in Bahraini eyes in the armed occupation of Bahrain. As a Bahraini teacher said to an American journalist: “I wish the Americans would help us. But the day after your defense minister came here, the Saudi troops came in.” As we’ve noted previously, the work of University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape brilliantly demonstrates that this is a formula which is likely to generate suicide terror attacks against U.S. interests.