Who has heard anything concrete about the protests in Bahrain? Very few people, no doubt. Not because it is a small country, but because in the contemporary world, what doesn’t appear in the media virtually does not exist. The same media which is exacerbating what is occurring in Syria is silent when it comes to passing judgment on allies of the United States. In this case, the ally being the monarchy of King Al Khalifa.
If there is any reference to the conflict in Bahrain in the media, it is reduced to a confrontation between Shiites and Sunnis. Although 70% of the country’s inhabitants are Shiite and the other 30% Sunni – the branch of Islam professed by the ruling dynasty – the essence of the protest in this country is neither sectarian nor religious.
For more than 12 months, the demonstrations in Bahrain have focused on demands linked to work, fighting poverty and social improvements. The perspective is a secular and peaceful one. “Not Shiites or Sunnis, but Bahrainis,” is the central slogan.
The reaction of authorities has been one of brutal repression. February 14, 2011 will be remembered as the day on which Saudi Arabian troops invaded Bahrain via an elevated highway linking the two countries, to “help” crush the uprising.
Police have fired live rounds at demonstrators, and have used clubs and teargas. According to witnesses, cruelty has reached the point that wounded protestors have been unable to get to hospitals for treatment.
Due to the evident lack of information, it is difficult to obtain any clear idea of what is taking place.
Why has this case not been discussed in the UN Security Council? Why has the Arab League not sent in a team of observers? Why is there no demand for Al Kalifa to step down, as is the case with Bashar al-Assad of Syria?
Analyst Pepe Escobar states that there was a tacit agreement between the House of Saud and the White House, along the lines of, “You invade Bahrain, we’ll give you an Arab resolution which will allow you to go to the UN and then launch the NATO humanitarian bombing of Libya.”
Two UN diplomatic sources confirmed this to Asia Times Online, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave the go-ahead for the Saudi invasion of Bahrain.
This is another clear example of the U.S. policy of double standards, or ‘do what I say and not what I do.’
Maryam al-Khawaja, an activist and director of the Bahrain Human Rights Center’s Foreign Relations Department, has attacked Western governments for selling arms to Bahrain.
During the last 10 years, U.S. sales of military equipment to the country have risen to $1.4 billion. In addition, Bahrain is in receipt of an International Military and Education Training program (IMET) and signed an agreement for $53 million in arms sales.
Why is such a small island so important to Washington?
In 2002, the U.S. giant designated the kingdom “a very important non-NATO ally.” At the same time, in March of 2008, the Al Khalifa regime became the first Arab country to conduct joint naval maneuvers with the United States. It is not coincidental that the U.S. 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain and will be the hub of any future U.S. military action in the Gulf. It has already given logistical support as a base in the Iraqi wars, and to missions in Afghanistan.
Simply stated, the United States cannot afford to lose Bahrain.