Only a few hours after the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates concluded his unannounced visit to Bahrain to meet the members of the country’s royal family, the military troops of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were dispatched to Manama to help the monarchy in its uncompromising clampdown on the revolutionary protesters who have been on the streets of the capital for weeks, demanding the dissolution of the tyrannical, US-backed government of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and the implementation of political, social reforms in the small Persian Gulf nation.
Undeniably, the invasion of Bahrain by the Saudi and Emirati forces, which are by chance two of the closest allies of Washington in the Persian Gulf, couldn’t have happened spontaneously or without the green light of the White House. Interestingly, the members of Arab League, the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, the United Nations Security Council and the European allies of the United States collectively turned a blind eye to the invasion of Bahrain as a sovereign state and kept a low profile in order to let the agenda proceed as it was planned by the White House: to invade Bahrain, suppress the protesters by resorting to military force, quelling the demonstrations, quieting the political dissidents and returning the country to the flimsy tranquility it had before.
The deployment of 1,000 troops by Saudi Arabia and 500 police forces by the UAE to Bahrain which was apparently a response to the invitation of Prime Minister Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa who asked the neighboring allies to come to the help of the repressive regime in its crackdown on the revolutionaries is a clear violation of the rights of Bahraini people, an insult to their communal will and an offensive, autocratic reaction against their peaceful demonstrations. This military expedition also threatens the security of the regional countries and questions the stability of the Persian Gulf which is already jeopardized by the presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The people of Bahrain, the majority of whom are devout Shiites, joined the all-encompassing wave of anti-government protests in the Middle East and North Africa since February 14 and gathered in the Pearl Roundabout every night, bringing to mind the victorious gatherings of the Egyptian people in the Tahrir Square which led to the removal of the US puppet Hosni Mubarak from power after 30 years of uncontested dictatorship. Unemployment, poor living conditions, housing crisis, lack of proper infrastructure, lack of political freedoms, suppression and torturing of human rights activists, harassment of opposition leaders and discrimination against the Shiite majority of the country were among the major grievances of the Bahraini protesters who demanded the dissolution of autocratic government, resignation of the Prime Minister, establishment of a democratic parliament and institutionalization of a modern constitution in their country.
However, the United States which has unambiguously demonstrated that it never takes the side of real democracy and freedom and flagrantly backs bloodthirsty dictators, showed the green light to Saudi Arabia and UAE to dispatch their troops to Bahrain and help extinguish the civil protests of the frustrated people who cannot tolerate the injustice and discrimination imposed on them by the royal family of Al Khalifa.
But, one question exists here: why did the United States gave approval to the invasion of Bahrain? Stephen Zunes, the Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco partly answers this question, “The fortress-like US embassy in Manama is probably the largest embassy relative to the population of the host country of any in the world. The US military in Bahrain, which directs the Fifth Fleet and the US Naval Central Command, controls roughly one-fifth of this small nation, making the southern part of the island essentially off-limits to Bahrainis. For more than 20 years, approximately 1,500 Americans have been stationed at the base, which the US government refers to as a “forward operations center”, supporting operations and serving as homeport for an additional 15,000 sailors.”
So, it’s the strategic interests of the United States which drives the White House to refrain from taking the side of the democracy and freedom which it usually boasts of. The United States doesn’t need Bahrain’s oil, which compared with the daily production of the Saudi Arabia, is quite infinitesimal and insignificant, but it needs the stronghold of diplomatic and political alliance with Bahrain which makes this small nation a strategic friend in the Persian Gulf region.
Prof. Zunes goes on to say that the military presence of the United States in Bahrain is quite ostentatious and perceptible, “Unlike in other Persian Gulf states, where Americans have traditionally kept a low profile, the U.S. presence is quite visible in Bahrain as a major port of call for sailors on leave… This is made possible thanks to its U.S.-friendly dictator, King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa. The prime minister is Prince Khalifa ibn Salman Al Khalifa, the king’s uncle and reputedly the richest man in the Bahrain, who has governed for nearly 40 years. Both are firmly committed to a close strategic alliance with the United States. And close economic ties as well.”
In an article published on The Progressive, Amitabh Pal analyzes the current turmoil in Bahrain. He believes that the invasion of Bahrain could not have happened without the unconditional backing of the United States. He explains that there are currently 6,000 American soldiers deployed in Bahrain and the only way to maintain this military presence, which is vital to the United States, is to keep in power the monarchic family of Al Khalifa which has been ruling Bahrain over the past 40 years.
Pal starts his article like this, “The Obama Administration is complicit in the Saudi invasion of a neighboring sovereign country. The Saudi incursion into Bahrain was apparently requested by the ruling Bahraini monarchy to protect itself against its own people. Imagine if East Germany’s Erich Honecker had successfully requested a Soviet invasion in 1989. Or, to take a more contemporary example, imagine if Muammar Gaddafi got one of his very few friends to invade in order to defeat the armed rebellion. And then imagine the global outrage.”
Now, we all know that the invasion of Bahrain was a move which the United States masterminded, spearheaded, backed and operated. Saudi Arabia and UAE are two of the US stooges in the Middle East, perpetually ready to carry out the order of their commander in every situation. With its uncalculated decision of invading Bahrain and quelling the pro-democracy demonstrators, even lethally, the United States showed that what it calls as its struggle for the expansion of democracy and freedom around the world is nothing but a futile claim. Amitabh Pal concludes his article with this statement, “The United States is issuing lame statements calling for calm and restraint on all sides. Yet again, the United States has shown that it is not on the side of freedom and democracy.”