US arms Sales to Bahrain Undercut Criticism of Russia, Iran on Syria

You wouldn’t think Bahrain and Syria were much linked. Both are Arabic-speaking countries, though about half of Bahrain’s residents are non-citizen guest workers who speak anything but Arabic. One is a geographically fairly large country of some 23 million abutting the eastern Mediterranean. The other is a set of tiny islands in the Mideast’s Gulf.

But Bahrain and Syria are tied in destiny, since they are numbers 5 and 6 of the series of Arab Spring countries that staged major rallies against their government. (The successful such movements were Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen). Bahrain and Syria are in some ways mirror images of one another. Syria has a Shiite, secular ruling elite and a Sunni majority that is treated like a minority. Bahrain has a Sunni ruling elite and a Shiite majority that is treated like a minority. Syria is backed by Russia and Iran, and has given the Russians a naval base on the Mediterranean at Tartous. Bahrain is backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia; it has given the US a naval base as HQ for the Fifth Fleet at Manama, and has garrisoned 1,000 Saudi troops on its soil.

Both governments have brutally repressed their popular revolts. In Bahrain a little less than a hundred have been killed, whereas in Syria it is something like 9,000. But Bahrain is so small that proportionally the death toll there per capita is in the same league with Syria’s.

The United States government has blasted Syria over its repression of its popular movement for democracy, placing a series of sanctions on Syrian leaders.

The US has been virtually silent about the dirty little police state that is Bahrain and its outrageous tactics, such as trying physicians for so much as treating wounded street protesters. The US has not placed sanctions on Bahrain and has done no more than tut-tut the government violence.

It is now worse. The US is now selling Bahrain Coast Guard and F-16 jet equipment.

Just ask yourself if the US would sell coast guard and F-16 equipment to Syria today.

This unnecessary and pernicious arms sale has only one purpose, and it isn’t to beef up Bahrain’s defenses. It is to reassure the Sunni king and his uncle, the prime minister, that the US forgives them for their jack boot tactics and will continue to support them.

There is no difference between the US acting this way and Russia running interference for Syria. Each is following its geopolitical interest. Neither has any morality. They are great powers.

So US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has just had her legs cut out from under her. When she goes to the UN and argues that Syria should be sanctioned, and she is blocked by Russia and China, you can be assured that Bahrain will be thrown in her face. The US is trying to make a case to other countries for the principled character of its stand. The Obama administration has just made itself a laughingstock in that regard, and I should think its Syria position will be a cause for snickering given that it is selling arms (albeit not crowd control supplies) to Bahrain.

The US and Saudi Arabia are afraid that the Bahrain Shiite majority leans toward Iran and that if it succeeds, that victory will benefit Iran. But most Bahrainis are Akhbaris and don’t even believe in ayatollahs, and they are Arabs and wouldn’t want Persian dominance. Bahrain Shiites are distinctive and have their reasons not to act as Iran’s cat’s paws.

The arms sale to Saudi Arabia is therefore bad for the Syrian opposition, since it announces the hypocrisy of American support for it.

Bahrain’s bloodthirsty government, long accused of using torture and jailing people for thought crimes, doesn’t need US coast guard cutters to protect it from Iran. That is the job of the fifth fleet. And since the US is doing that job for the king, Washington should expect a little cooperation on the human rights front, not to be further taken advantage of.

Meanwhile, the US statements on Bahrain sound just like those of Iran on Syria. It is all about fifth columns and hooligans and outside agents. It is a crock.

Aljazeera English has a video news report on the sale:

9 Responses

  1. Most Americans would not approve the sales of military weapons to the Bahrain government which is guilty of killing, arresting, jailing and torturing peaceful protesters?

    Both news of the military sales and the Bahrain government’s illegal actions were kept out of the mass news media or suppressed until the sales and torture became headlines or main stories online, abroad, in print or on talk shows.

    Then, US government spin begins.

    “US officials said among the sales now allowed to go forward would be harbor security vessels and upgrades to turbo-fan engines used in F-16 fighter aircraft as well as legislation which could pave the way for a future sale of a naval frigate. Items still on hold, besides the missiles and the Humvees, include teargas, teargas launchers and stun grenades.”

    link to\13\story_13-5-2012_pg4_3

    Missiles to a government that kills peaceful demonstrators?

    Oh, forgot. The US 5th Fleet is stationed in Bahrain and Iran is a threat. The US Military Industrial Complex is alive, thriving, seeding and starting wars and killing.

    How to stop this crap?

  2. If a nation is consistently moral, it will loose ground in the competition for power. Great powers have no reason to exist other than the competition between them. Their interests are not necessarily the interests of the people living in the territory they control. Loyality to one’s country necessarily means disloyality to righteousness, because it will inevitably mean supporting something immoral. Nationalism is the big scam that keeps humanity divided and constrained.

  3. The big difference between Bahrain and Syria is that in Bahrain you have unarmed local civilian population that is getting killed. In Syria what started as a democratic opposition to the Assad’s regime seem to have been hijacked by Saudi interest and turned into an armed conflict between government and local+ foreign forces.

    • hey daryoush “the great”

      the syrian uprising was peaceful for 7 months. The regime nevertheless killed the people even in that period. So. Who do you want to fool here. Syria will never become part of “great persia”. And therefor no access to the Mediterranean for Iran. I love how Iran helped the US in the Invasion of Afghanistan too while it now funds anti-occupation afghan TV-Channels. The same trick Iran used in Iraq. Let the US do the dirty work and than we can take over. Forget about it.

      P.s: The regime imprisoned even school children and tortured because they wrote anti-regime slogans on walls.

  4. As my ex-wife used to say to me, “When you do X, it’s WRONG. When I do X, it’s DIFFERENT.” Simple, right?

    Say again what in the way of Magic Arrows is left, in the human behavioral quiver, that might leave one with some tiny hope that the species, including my grandchildren, has a prayer of surviving, let alone muddling through?

  5. Most Americans wouldn’t approve of selling arms to oppressive regimes, unfortunately “most” Americans don’t have a say, think of every leader we have taken out, by assassination, coup, or “uprisings”, it wasn’t “us” it was our governments & ppl of those countries get mad at “we the people” then attack us our the troops, then we get mad at them & destroy them further. It baffles my mind that most Americans don’t understand foreign policy & how evil it all has been. But I guess all those dead bodies are to “keep us free” ….

  6. another center of shia protest that gets little coverage:

    link to

    The Obama administration has just made itself a laughingstock in that regard

    when has u.s. foreign policy ever not been hypocritical?

    while i am disillusioned with pres. obama for various reasons, doesn’t the bulk of the blame here lie with saudi arabia? who are terrified of shia encroachment and of anything that undermines their rule. it is probably they who are twisting obama’s arm to support the stifling of dissent. what with the unspoken threat of driving up oil prices if they don’t get what they want – underlying every saudi request.

    Just ask yourself if the US would sell coast guard and F-16 equipment to Syria today

    but the pentagon is defending russia continuing supplying military equipment to the syria regime.

    A top Pentagon official is trying to stop congressional opposition to a deal that provides Russian helicopters to the Afghan military — even as the same official Russian arms exporter also supplies Syrian dictator Bashar Assad with weapons used to massacre dissidents.

    link to

    there has to be reforms made with the un security council process when the u.s. is unable to even get an arms embargo put in place against murderous regimes because of china/russia vetoes. (but then again, maybe it doesn’t want to.)

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