Via IPS News
Analysis by Jim Lobe*
WASHINGTON, Apr 23, 2011 (IPS) – As the so-called Arab Spring enters its sixth month, it appears to have run into seriously wintry headwinds.
While some observers here have blamed Saudi Arabia and its neighbouring Sunni-led sheikhdoms as a major source of the icy winds that are blasting through the Gulf, the growing contradictions between the U.S. and Western “values” and their interests are adding to the unseasonable weather.
Thus, while Washington has privately expressed strong doubts about the wisdom of the increasingly brutal and indiscriminate crackdown against the majority Shia population in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, its failure to clearly and publicly denounce the Saudi-backed repression is only the most blatant example of this trend.
Far less noticed – let alone condemned – are actions such as Thursday’s dissolution by the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of the board of directors of the Jurist Association, one of the country’s most prominent civil society organisations, which earlier this month had the temerity to sign a petition seeking political reform.
Human Rights Watch said the move was part of a “broader crackdown on peaceful dissent” by the government, whose de facto defence minister, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will meet with President Barack Obama here next week, the White House announced Friday.
Indeed, despite his growing – if reluctant – military investment in “regime change” in Libya, Obama’s avowed efforts to put Washington “on the right side of history” in the Arab world appear increasingly lame and hypocritical. — Which should surprise no one who is familiar with the history of US imperialism. –WG
Via Al Jazeera
King announces emergency powers for three months amid reports of more deaths as protests continue in the country.
The king of Bahrain has declared a state of emergency for three months on the island following weeks of anti-government protests, state television said.
An order by the king “authorised the commander of Bahrain’s defence forces to take all necessary measures to protect the safety of the country and its citizens,” a statement read out on television on Tuesday said.
The development comes a day after a Saudi-led military forces arrived to help prop up the government, which is facing pressure from the Shia majority to implement reforms.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the capital, Manama, who we are not naming for security reasons, said the declaration of a state of emergency appears to have been deliberated upon for some time now.
“The last few days Manama has effectively been shut down. So there was a sense that something was going to happen. Then yesterday we had the GCC troops come in,” he said.
“I’m standing now in and amongst a demonstration. There are tens of thousands of people streaming past me to the Saudi embassy. There is a great sense of change here.”
Via IPS News
DOHA, Qatar, Mar 14, 2011 (IPS/Al Jazeera) – A Saudi military force of about 1,000 troops has entered Bahrain to help protect government facilities there, according to witnesses and reports citing Saudi sources.
The development on Monday follows weeks of unrest in the tiny Gulf State, which lies between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, where the country’s Sunni rulers face growing pressure from a majority Shia population to institute political reforms.
“About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain early on Monday morning through the causeway to Bahrain,” the Reuters news agency reported a Saudi source as saying, referring to the 26km causeway that connects the island kingdom to Saudi Arabia. “They are part of the Gulf Co-operation Council [GCC] force that would guard the government installations.”
Abdel al-Mowada, the deputy chairman of Bahrain’s parliament, told Al Jazeera: “I cannot guarantee it 100 percent. We heard that they [the Saudi force] are coming … but it is not 100 percent guaranteed [that they are here].”
The move follows a request from Bahrain for help from its Gulf Arab neighbours after Bahraini police clashed on Sunday with mostly Shia demonstrators in one of the most violent confrontations since troops killed seven protesters last month.
The Gulf Daily News newspaper had reported that forces from the GCC, a six-member regional bloc, would be arriving in the country on Monday with a mission “limited to protecting vital facilities”. –translation: “to save the monarchy’s ass.” -WG
Via IPS News
By Suha Mohammed
MANAMA, Feb 18, 2011 (IPS) – Bahrain, unlike Egypt with its 83 million people, has a population of only just over a million. And so when protesters settled down to sleep at a central roundabout in capital Manama, the police swooped down and manage to clear them away.
But not before strong resistance and many deaths. Ali Salman, general secretary of the leading opposition party Al Wefaq, said four protesters died, and hundreds were injured.
The masses of people who turned out to attend funerals on Friday were testimony to the scale of the anger against the ruling family.
Al Wefaq has called on international parliamentary unions to intervene urgently to stop the killing of Bahrain people by security forces.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Brigadier Tariq Al Hassan says 92 protesters and 50 policemen were injured. State television showed footage of weapons said to have been seized from protesters.
Brig. Al Hassan said the weapons included guns and swords, and pointed to the Islamist political group Hezbollah based in Lebanon as the source. Salman disputes the allegations.
The scepter of the Hezbollah raised by the spokesman highlights a lingering issue between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the tiny Arab nation. Shias form the majority in this nation, that is ruled by a Sunni elite. The government is seeking to blame for Shia groups for the unrest. Protesters insist they are looking for basic political and human rights.