Obama conspires with Mideast despots to slow the advance of democracy

“Everybody realized that Bahrain was just too important to fail,” said an Obama administration official. And what would cause failure? For the monarchy to be overthrown and replaced with a democracy.

From Washington’s perspective, the people in Bahrain, the other Gulf states and especially in Saudi Arabia cannot be trusted with the power to determine their own futures.

Saudi Arabia is preparing to launch a ruthless crackdown on dissent and when pro-democracy demonstrators get slaughtered, as they probably will, if President Obama has anything to say we can be sure he will go no further than issue one of his usual mealy-mouthed appeals for restraint. The House of Saud has already been given the green light to do whatever it must in the name of preserving “stability.”

The stability to which the Middle East’s rulers and their American friends now cling, is a stability whose foundation is built on graves and torture cells.

Robert Fisk writes:

Saudi Arabia was yesterday drafting up to 10,000 security personnel into its north-eastern Shia Muslim provinces, clogging the highways into Dammam and other cities with busloads of troops in fear of next week’s “day of rage” by what is now called the “Hunayn Revolution”.

Saudi Arabia’s worst nightmare – the arrival of the new Arab awakening of rebellion and insurrection in the kingdom – is now casting its long shadow over the House of Saud. Provoked by the Shia majority uprising in the neighbouring Sunni-dominated island of Bahrain, where protesters are calling for the overthrow of the ruling al-Khalifa family, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is widely reported to have told the Bahraini authorities that if they do not crush their Shia revolt, his own forces will.

The opposition is expecting at least 20,000 Saudis to gather in Riyadh and in the Shia Muslim provinces of the north-east of the country in six days, to demand an end to corruption and, if necessary, the overthrow of the House of Saud. Saudi security forces have deployed troops and armed police across the Qatif area – where most of Saudi Arabia’s Shia Muslims live – and yesterday would-be protesters circulated photographs of armoured vehicles and buses of the state-security police on a highway near the port city of Dammam.

Although desperate to avoid any outside news of the extent of the protests spreading, Saudi security officials have known for more than a month that the revolt of Shia Muslims in the tiny island of Bahrain was expected to spread to Saudi Arabia. Within the Saudi kingdom, thousands of emails and Facebook messages have encouraged Saudi Sunni Muslims to join the planned demonstrations across the “conservative” and highly corrupt kingdom. They suggest – and this idea is clearly co-ordinated – that during confrontations with armed police or the army next Friday, Saudi women should be placed among the front ranks of the protesters to dissuade the Saudi security forces from opening fire.

If the Saudi royal family decides to use maximum violence against demonstrators, US President Barack Obama will be confronted by one of the most sensitive Middle East decisions of his administration. In Egypt, he only supported the demonstrators after the police used unrestrained firepower against protesters. But in Saudi Arabia – supposedly a “key ally” of the US and one of the world’s principal oil producers – he will be loath to protect the innocent.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

After weeks of internal debate on how to respond to uprisings in the Arab world, the Obama administration is settling on a Middle East strategy: help keep longtime allies who are willing to reform in power, even if that means the full democratic demands of their newly emboldened citizens might have to wait.

Instead of pushing for immediate regime change—as it did to varying degrees in Egypt and now Libya—the U.S. is urging protesters from Bahrain to Morocco to work with existing rulers toward what some officials and diplomats are now calling “regime alteration.”

The approach has emerged amid furious lobbying of the administration by Arab governments, who were alarmed that President Barack Obama had abandoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and worried that, if the U.S. did the same to the beleaguered king of Bahrain, a chain of revolts could sweep them from power, too, and further upend the region’s stability.

The strategy also comes in the face of domestic U.S. criticism that the administration sent mixed messages at first in Egypt, tentatively backing Mr. Mubarak before deciding to throw its full support behind the protesters demanding his ouster. Likewise in Bahrain, the U.S. decision to throw a lifeline to the ruling family came after sharp criticism of its handling of protests there. On Friday, the kingdom’s opposition mounted one of its largest rallies, underlining the challenge the administration faces selling a strategy of more gradual change to the population.

Administration officials say they have been consistent throughout, urging rulers to avoid violence and make democratic reforms that address the demands of their populations. Still, a senior administration official acknowledged the past month has been a learning process for policy makers. “What we have said throughout this is that there is a need for political, economic and social reform, but the particular approach will be country by country,” the official said.

A pivotal moment came in late February, in the tense hours after Mr. Obama publicly berated King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa for cracking down violently on antigovernment demonstrators in Bahrain’s capital. Envoys for the king and his Arab allies shuttled from the Pentagon to the State Department and the White House with a carefully coordinated message.

If the Obama administration did not reverse course and stand squarely behind the monarchy, they warned, Bahrain’s government could fall, costing America a critical ally and potentially moving the country toward Iran’s orbit. Adding to the sense of urgency was a scenario being watched by U.S. intelligence agencies: the possibility that Saudi Arabia might invade its tiny neighbor to silence the Shiite-led protesters, threatening decades-old partnerships and creating vast political and economic upheaval.

“We need the full support of the United States,” a top Bahraini diplomat beseeched the Americans, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffery Feltman, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, and other top policy makers.

Arab diplomats believe the push worked. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emerged as leading voices inside the administration urging greater U.S. support for the Bahraini king coupled with a reform agenda that Washington insisted would be have to be credible to street protesters. Instead of backing cries for the king’s removal, Mr. Obama asked protesters to negotiate with the ruling family, which is promising major changes.

Israel was also making its voice heard. As Mr. Mubarak’s grip on power slipped away in Egypt, Israeli officials lobbied Washington to move cautiously and reassure Mideast allies that they were not being abandoned. Israeli leaders have made clear that they fear extremist forces could try to exploit new-found freedoms and undercut Israel’s security, diplomats said.

“Starting with Bahrain, the administration has moved a few notches toward emphasizing stability over majority rule,” said a U.S. official. “Everybody realized that Bahrain was just too important to fail.”

The BBC reports:

All protests and marches are to be banned in Saudi Arabia, the interior ministry has announced on state TV.

Its statement said security forces would use all measures to prevent any attempt to disrupt public order.

The announcement follows a series of protests by the kingdom’s Shia minority in the oil-producing eastern province.

Last month, King Abdullah unveiled a series of benefits in an apparent bid to protect the kingdom from the revolts spreading throughout many Arab states.

“Regulations in the kingdom forbid categorically all sorts of demonstrations, marches and sit-ins, as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society,” the Saudi interior ministry statement said.

It added that police were “authorised by law to take all measures needed against those who try to break the law”.

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  1. Vince J. says

    Obama is just another War Criminal occupying the WH. The US has never supported true DEMOCRACY. Early in his presidency we had the US-backed military coup in Honduras. Zelaya was overthrown because he wanted to increase the minimum wage of the Honduras people and change the constitution to allow future presidents to run for a second term. Zelaya was taken in his pijamas to a US military base and out of Honduras. Very much like they did in Haiti (B. Clinton and Bush).
    Outside the US people has seen the true face of this weak polititian full of bull and empty rethotic.
    They may conspire with Middle East desposts carcasses, but “CHANGE” is here to saty. “CHANGE” is everywhere but not in the US. Not for the moment anayway… the unemployed, foreclose, working poor are still suffering from decades of ignorance. The moment they get informed and organized thing may “CHANGE” in the US.
    Lets not forget the treatment ObaOba (Samba house in Rio de Janeiro for american tourists) is giving to B. Manning. And his executive order to assassinate anyone any where, US citizens included.
    As we say in Brazil: Babaca Obama. (Babaca is a slang word meaning F…wit)

  2. The word is in — the US has never promoted democracy — it only stands up for hypocrisy. Totally unmasked, Washington chooses dictatorship above human rights and freedom. Its real gods are money and oil.

    Don’t blame the stool pigeon in the White House for everything, there is a larger coterie of dictatorship lovers than could ever fit in one pair of shoes. Who are the real enemies of the people? All neo-liberals, the World Bank, the Freidmanites, the IMF, all neo-conservatives, Israel and the Christian Zionists, the Pentagon, Wall St and its greedy speculators, Bernanke and his inflationary policies that bring about huge spikes in commodity prices. (Did you hear how he blamed rising prices on rising prices?)

    This last promises to blow the whole dirty show off the face of the Earth. With the rampant shower of made-in-the-Fed phony dollars looking to hide in commodity markets the rise in food prices will likely produce million man crowds in every capital city in the world this year. There are going to be enough enemies of the Washington Consensus that the US will be rescuing its minions from the roofs of embassies all over.

  3. Vince J. says

    Christopher Hoare,
    well said!

  4. Vince J. says

    This is just one more example of wasting needed money by the US:

    “NASA Glory Satellite Fails to Make Orbit – $424 Million in South Pacific!”

    Comical isn’t it?! NASA argues it was for monitoring ozone… we all know about the militarization of space carried out by the US. Glad it failed!!!!

  5. delia ruhe says

    Add to Paul’s list of sources on this topic the terrific article by John MacArthur on elBaradei. The knives have been out for elB since he returned to Egypt after his time with the IAEA. Most of the stuff I’m reading (I have a Google alert out on elBaradei) has him guilty of everything short of child molestation. Western powers, including and especially Israel, are determined to torpedo every effort by the revolution to get him to at least serve as an interim govt leader to smooth out the transition to presidential and legislative elections.


  6. When push comes to shove, Obama will justify the bloody crackdown by evoking specter of Iran just as the Sunni dictators are doing now. America’s so called strategic interests always tramp its rhetorical supports for democracy, human rights and so on. People throughout the world with the exception of the American public and some European and Israeli public have known this for as long as they can remember.

    If “Everybody realized that Bahrain was just too important to fail.”, I am sure the same everybody also realize that Saudi Arabia is just as important if not more.

    “How long the “civilized world” can go on supporting the nation whose citizens made up almost all of the suicide killers of 9/11?” The pessimistic answer is: until the oil is gone.

    Why did Obama make Cairo speech if he were just going to enforce status-quo? I suppose he did it for purely narcissistic reasons: to bask in accolades and feel good about it.

  7. Vince J. says

    chris m,
    most of the alledged boxcutters “terrorists” were indeed from Saudi Arabia. However, 9/11 was made in USA. Nanothermite residue was found throughout the dust from WTC1,2 and 7. Nanothermite is a highly sophidticated US military explosive.
    Check architects for 9/11 truth. Check their scientific analysis and their findings.

  8. Vince J. says

    Same with Saddam Hussein chemical weapon that the US government loooves to brag about how he used against his own people. Well… they were provided to him by the US of A.
    Same as the White phosphorus used by the terrorist state of israel against the civilian population of Gaza in 2008/9. They were Made in USA.
    WMD are as american as apple pie.

  9. Bahrainis Fear the U.S. Isn’t Behind Their Fight for Democracy


    “At a ramshackle mosque overflowing with worshipers on Friday, the most senior cleric of the Shiite community in Bahrain offered a veiled but somber message for the pro-democracy movement: America and the West support democratic aspirations in the Arab world — but only to a point.
    “They are looking out for their own interests,” Sheik Isa Qassim said in his Friday sermon.
    Foreign countries had supported democracy around the globe and even waged wars in the name of democracy, he said. “But these countries offer only cool, verbal support when it comes to regimes friendly to them,” Mr. Qassim said, an apparent reference to the Bahrain government. “
    “Protesters here say their dreams of democracy are being thwarted by the United States’ desire to protect a large naval base in Bahrain, by the perception that Shiites reflexively side with Iran, and by the influence of neighboring Saudi Arabia, which analysts say would probably not accept a Shiite-led Bahrain.
    Justin Gengler, a former Fulbright scholar in Bahrain, said he did not expect the United States to abandon its support for the Khalifa family, which has run this country for more than two centuries.
    “As soon as it looks like the U.S. is not supporting royal families in the gulf region, it starts to raise eyebrows everywhere — in Qatar, in Saudi Arabia, in Kuwait, in Oman,” Mr. Gengler said. “The U.S. can’t turn its back on the Bahraini royal family without implicitly abandoning the idea of monarchies in the gulf.” “

  10. Now things are starting to get interesting. “O” is going to take a position on this that goes against what he has been preaching, and he has been preaching. I think he should have become a preacher man, instead of P.O.T.U.S. His sermons about everything so far, are just that. What is he going do if the Saudis attach their own people? It’s too bad that he did those flip-flops. He might be appeasing his handlers with his performance, but he’s letting the Country, our Country down, every-time he does. I’m afraid he’s going to do more damage in the time he has left in office, unless he gets his head out of where the sun don’t shine and start using the full power of the office for what’s right. Sadly though, because he’s a weak P.O.T.U.S., the U.S. will again get a black eye or perhaps two, before this is over. I believe he’ll rue the day he capitulated the office to the Neo’s along with the rest of the right leaning forces in this country.

  11. Well, well cotton tail…10 years ago I had some t -shirts made up that said ‘Burn Washington to the Ground and Start Over’–a lot of people thought I was over the top, an alarmist, seeing evil trends in US government and poitics where were none and so forth.

    So now America is at the point where the US has agreed to protect and defend foreign dictators AGAINST their OWN PEOPLE.
    Er….who is crazy now?

    Ready yet?

  12. Colm O' Toole says

    Meanwhile today it looks like the British have been caught conspiring check out this unbelievable (or sadly believable) news from Britain Guardian today.


    “SAS Unit” captured in Libya

    “According to Guardian sources, a suspected British intelligence and special forces unit, which parachuted in about four days ago, was caught near the town of Khandra, about 30km west of Benghazi.

    A senior member of Benghazi’s revolutionary council said: “They were carrying espionage equipment, reconnaissance equipment, multiple passports and weapons. This is no way to conduct yourself during an uprising.”

    “The Sunday Times reports Libyan and British sources confirming the SAS unit was detained by rebel forces it had approached to secure a meeting with a junior diplomat to offer help in their fight against Gaddafi. The mission backfired when rebel leaders in Benghazi objected to foreign interference from governments which had not yet formally recognised them as Libya’s legitimate rulers, it said.

    Spokesmen for the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office refused to confirm or deny the Sunday Times report.

    The international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, refused to comment about the SAS unit when questioned on Radio 5 Live.”

  13. The fact is, the article and all the comments here are attacking Obama for something that hasn’t even happened yet. You’re making an assumption about what he will do which may (or may not) prove to be deeply cynical once the events play out.

    I agree that Obama has proven to be a moral opportunist and enabler of elites against the people many times in the past, but let’s wait and see what he does in this particular case before piling on, shall we?

  14. eatbees,
    Obama IS a WAR CRIMINAL. Are Onabanetes still apologizing for this weak politian??!! Torture still occurs, Drone attacks still kill inocent civilians, Iraq and Afegahnistan are still being illegaly occupied, The US still waging undeclared wars where it should be, the CIA still carries out criminal activities, the US population still have to pay for healthcare, Bush’s administration War Crmininals are not being investigated or prossecuted, US still behind military coups in Latin America, the defense budget is still killing your economy… and the list goes on and on… Are you still looking for “Change you can believe in”????!

  15. I meant “The US still waging undeclared wars where it should NOT be”.

  16. Worse… your dear leader can assassinate anyone anywhere, american citizens included, without due process. Poor Obama…