15 thoughts on “Stop US arms sales to Bahrain

  1. Democrats ask Clinton to delay Bahraini arms sales

    By DONNA CASSATA
    Associated Press

    2011-10-13 06:39 AM

    Five Democratic senators are asking Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to delay $53 million in arms sales to violence-wracked Bahrain.

    In a letter Wednesday, the lawmakers criticized Bahrain’s human rights violations and resistance to calls for reform. They said completing the sale would weaken U.S. credibility amid democratic transitions in the Middle East.

    At least 35 people have died since Bahrain’s Shiite-led majority began protests in February seeking greater rights from the ruling Sunni monarchy in the strategic nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

    Signing the letter were Sens. Bob Casey, Ben Cardin, Ron Wyden, Dick Durbin and Bob Menendez. Wyden and Rep. Jim McGovern have introduced a resolution to block the sale.

  2. Bahrain opposition unites to decry “police state”

    Reuters

    DUBAI — In a defiant show of unity, Bahrain opposition parties have jointly denounced the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab island as a police state and demanded a transition to a constitutional monarchy.

    Five groups, including the main Shi’ite party Wefaq and the secular Waad party, vowed to keep up a pro-democracy campaign with peaceful rallies and marches — despite a Saudi-backed government crackdown that crushed similar protests in March.

    In their “Manama Document,” the first such joint statement since the unrest, the opposition groups said Bahrain was a police state akin to those that prevailed in Egypt and Tunisia before popular uprisings swept their leaders from power.

    The document, issued on Wednesday, said the ruling Al Khalifa family’s role should be to “govern without powers” in a constitutional monarchy, drawing attacks from pro-government media which described it as a power grab by majority Shi’ites.

    Unrest still roils Bahrain months after the ruling family brought in troops from Sunni allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help crush a protest movement they said was fomented by Iran and had Shi’ite sectarian motives.

    The government says nightly clashes between police and Shi’ite villagers and other forms of civil disobedience are hurting the economy of the banking and tourism hub. Many firms have relocated elsewhere in the Gulf.

    A military court has convicted 21 opposition figures, human rights campaigners and online activists who led the protests of trying to overthrow the ruling system. Eight were jailed for life. Waad leader Ibrahim Sharif, a Sunni, received a five-year sentence.

    “In pursuit of democracy, opposition forces intend to fully and solely embrace peaceful measures,” the Manama Document said, calling for a direct dialogue between the government and opposition, backed by unspecified international guarantees.

    King Hamad bin Isa held a month-long “national dialogue” in July, but Wefaq walked out, saying it was under-represented. The Shi’ite bloc won 18 of parliament’s 40 seats in a 2010 election.

    The dialogue led to a government reform of parliamentary powers to allow deputies more power to question ministers.

    But the Manama Document demanded an elected government and the scrapping of an appointed upper house, and criticized the grip on power exercised by some senior royals — the king’s uncle, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman, is thought to be the world’s longest serving prime minister, holding the post since 1971.

    “In the presence of an unelected government under the statesmanship of a single person for 40 years, some 80 percent of public land ended up being controlled by senior members from the royal family and other influential figures,” it said.

    “The reality in Bahrain is no different from any non-democratic state, a copy of Ben Ali’s Tunisia, Mubarak’s Egypt and Saleh’s Yemen,” it said.

    Protests in January and February ousted Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is still holding on despite nine months of mass demonstrations demanding his departures.

    APPEAL TO ABROAD?

    One analyst said Bahrain’s opposition wanted to remind outside powers that they were struggling for democracy.

    “The opposition are changing tack a bit, this seems to be a cry to the outside world. They are saying ‘this is an autocracy, what are you going to do about it?’,” said Michael Stephens, a Royal United Services Institute researcher based in Qatar.

    “It will make some people wriggle in their seats a bit.”

    Apart from the grievance about land ownership, the document also cites problems in education, electoral boundaries, corruption, housing, health, roads, electricity supply and the judiciary.

    The United States, whose Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, has called on the government to talk directly with Wefaq.

    Washington is trying to fend off charges that it has backed Arab pro-democracy uprisings elsewhere, while condoning the Saudi-backed crackdown in Bahrain, a longstanding Gulf ally.

    Pro-government media reacted angrily to the Manama Document.

    Al-Watan daily denounced Wefaq as “Bahrain’s Hezbollah,” a reference to the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group, and said parliamentarians saw the document as pandering to foreigners.

    The government says that democracy in Bahrain must fit the region and need not match systems in place elsewhere.

    “Any form of democratic government in Bahrain has to suit the nature and character of Bahraini culture and heritage,” the government’s Information Affairs Authority said this week.

    Munira Fakhro, of the Waad party, said the opposition wanted to state its case in the face of hostile state media and to call for dialogue on the basis of reforms discussed with the crown prince before the protests were crushed in March.

    “Media criticism and attacks have increased dramatically, in the press, television and radio. We just want to remind the public that this is our aim and what we want,” she said.

    (This story was corrected to fix Sharif’s prison sentence in paragraph 7)

  3. Morocco, the GCC’s Maghreb protector?
    October 14, 2011 12:46 AM
    By Intissar Fakir
    The Daily Star

    When the proposal to invite Morocco and Jordan into the Gulf Cooperation Council first made headlines last May, it was interpreted as an offer of solidarity between monarchs at a time when Bahrain’s Sunni royal family was facing angry protests.

    In fact, the effort to expand the regional association is more than a reactionary response to sweeping protests and changes in the Middle East. It suggests an attempt to find a long-term solution to regional uncertainty and a shifting balance of power.

    Moroccan Foreign Minister Taib Fassi-Fihri and his Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Jouda, traveled to Jeddah last month to discuss their countries’ potential membership and the details of accession. What initially seemed to be a bizarre idea with little chance of materializing now appears feasible. Although the notion is hard to reconcile with geographic and socio-economic realities, Morocco and Jordan seem to be on track to becoming GCC members.

    On the surface, the plan to add Morocco and Jordan to the GCC is an effort to address concerns about a second wave of regional protests that targets monarchies. It complements the Arab monarchies’ prevailing response to the protests: proposing reforms that promise meaningless elections or superficial change, while also increasing social spending to buy stability.

    These reforms have been couched in progressive language and combined with an effective public relations campaign intended to win over both the people in these countries as well as the international community. Morocco has demonstrated this perfectly with its recent constitutional revisions. Saudi Arabia’s massive social spending and recent announcement of women suffrage, like Bahrain’s recent elections, are also illustrations of this strategy.

    But Morocco has not been able to respond economically to the protests in the same fashion that the richer monarchies have. Accession to the GCC will undoubtedly bring economic and national security benefits to Morocco, as well as the prestige of joining one of the more elite regional organizations. The kingdom is struggling with serious economic difficulties, including a large budget deficit, expensive energy imports, high unemployment (particularly among educated youth), and poverty rates that also remain high despite Morocco’s attempt in recent years to reduce them.

    The economic boost that would come with GCC membership could provide remedies to many of these issues, though only the specific terms of Morocco’s accession will reveal the extent of the benefits that will accrue. In terms of foreign policy, accession could also be a coup for Morocco, as it would gain powerful allies in the long-running dispute over Western Sahara and in the antagonistic relationship with Algeria (particularly given Algeria’s relationship with Iran.)

    Saudi Arabia and the GCC have a deep interest in the stability of other Arab monarchies, and have portrayed the Arab Spring as a phenomenon targeting republics. But beyond the symbolism of more stable Arab monarchies, Morocco (and Jordan) could provide certain advantages to the GCC in general and Saudi Arabia in particular.

    Clearly Saudi Arabia is not interested in bringing Morocco’s experience with a multiparty political system, labor unions, women’s rights, and cultural openness to the West into the GCC. But by transforming the GCC from a small, regional oil-rich organization into a diverse alliance that stretches from the Strait of Hormuz to the Strait of Gibraltar, Saudi Arabia may hope to augment its strategic position. Current Saudi strategy is driven by a need to respond to the recent and ongoing radical shift in regional dynamics and to counter what Riyadh perceives as growing Iranian influence. With Morocco and Jordan, the GCC gains strategic depth and Saudi Arabia gains allies who would take a hard-line against Iran (unlike Qatar and Oman, which both maintain good working relations with Tehran.)

    Along with some of the strategic advantages that Morocco and Jordan bring to the GCC, there are some tangible gains as well. Both Morocco and Jordan are appealing investment opportunities. Morocco also has a large population and a viable military force. Recently, speculation surfaced in the Moroccan press that the kingdom would provide military units, as would Jordan, to the GCC. Although the speculation has not been addressed by Morocco’s Foreign Ministry, it makes a lot of sense. The GCC has advanced military equipment but is short of manpower. Given the military role that Saudi Arabia has played in Bahrain and Yemen – to say nothing of fears of an aggressive Iran, a reconstituted Iraq, and the possibility of more Arab revolutions – this could be a priority in order to withstand new regional changes.

    Despite the mutual benefits of accession to the GCC, Moroccan reformers and the Feb. 20 protest movement risk being further marginalized. The GCC will provide Morocco with a more robust response to protests resulting from disparity, and will encourage the monarchy to ignore protesters’ call for social justice, transparency, and political accountability. Historically, Morocco has looked to France and the West for political and economic support, but this would often come with various demands. The GCC will make no demands for political reform, democracy, or human rights. Indeed, the council could quietly support resistance to substantial reform.

    Intissar Fakir is a special assistant to the deputy president of the National Endowment for Democracy. The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of the NED. This commentary was written for THE DAILY STAR.

    A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 14, 2011, on page 7.

    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2011/Oct-14/151235-morocco-the-gccs-maghreb-protector.ashx#ixzz1ajsL0GuE

    (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

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