Thursday, July 28, 2011

The U.S. Embassy in Bahrain: An Evil Everyone Can Appreciate

The only thing Bahrainis seem to be able to agree upon these days is that they really don't care for the U.S. Embassy. Indeed, just when you thought the Embassy was definitely a Hizballah agent working for Iran, you find out that it is actually single-handedly propping up the Al Khalifa regime. What to believe anymore?

Such is the conclusion one must reach if he would be persuaded by the continued anti-U.S. mobilization on the part of both pro-government Sunnis as well as those who continue to pursue Bahrain's long-expired "February 14 revolution." The belligerence of the former camp has been well-documented here (as well as in my Foreign Policy article). Most strikingly, two weeks ago in Busaiteen, Sh. 'Abd al-Latif Al Mahmud said to his National Unity Gathering rally-goers,
If the regime is too weak to stand up to the US, they need to declare that so people can have their say.

And if the regime needs a third rally [the first two being the pro-government counter-protests at the al-Fatih Mosque], this time in front of the US embassy, the people are ready. If the US is threatening to withdraw its troops and the facilities it gives to Bahrain then to hell with these troops and facilities. We are ready to live in famine to protect our dignity.
In fact, of course, the demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy never materialized--not, at least, from the National Unity Gathering. The February 14 Coalition, on the other hand, is another story. While al-Wifaq has scheduled for Friday a march down al-Budaiyi' Road from the Saar to al-Diraz Roundabouts (which is actually only around 1 km or so), the February 14 folks are planning a rally in front of--you guessed it--the U.S. Embassy in Zinj. Ironically, with the demonstration taking place on a Friday, I doubt anyone will even be there to be annoyed by it.

Unfortunately, unlike for the al-Wifaq rally, there is no colorful web flier that I can post, though if this changes I will add it. News about it appeared first on opposition forums, and the Bahrain Mirror has since confirmed it, reporting that
The February 14 movement has called for a rally in front of the American Embassy in Manama the day after tomorrow, Friday, under the slogan, "Right to Self-Determination 5 [I guess it's the fifth rally?]."

In a statement a copy of which the Bahrain Mirror has obtained, the Movement said that "it will continue the path of the revolution," arguing that "the system has lost its legitimacy." The statement added that "the [national] dialogue was the system's attempt to circumvent the popular protests," arguing that "the crimes of the regime and the occupying Saudi forces were committed with American support."
When combined with the revelation earlier this month by Bahrain's Defense Minister Marshall Khalifah bin Ahmad that Bahrain's uprising "was by all measures a conspiracy involving Iran with the support of the U.S.," this additional revelation of U.S. complicity in the Saudi intervention also means that American foreign policy is approaching Iran-Iraq War-levels of duplicity. On the authoritative Dick Cheney Scale of Meddling, we are looking at an 8.5 at least.

Not mentioned in the Bahrain Mirror summary is an additional detail of the planned embassy protest. Its organizers with the February 14 Movement are claiming via "multiple sources" inside the Embassy that U.S. officials have already authorized the use of force by the Bahraini riot police to put down the protest. This same post on the largest opposition forum even claims that the chargé herself "said that the cacophony of voices [of the protesters] must shut up."

Who will put a stop to this latest outrage committed by the U.S. Embassy? Why, Al-Watan's anti-American extraordinaire Yusif Al Bin Khalil, of course.

You may recall that in a post exactly one week ago we paused to examine at some length Al Bin Khalil's then-latest op-ed offering, "Bahraini Societies Control America," which purported to expose a sinister dinner party organized for the graduates of the American Studies Center planned for July 30 at a hotel in Juffair. To quote from that post:
the entire article revolves around a dinner party--the exact date, time, and location of which he not-so-subtly divulges for anyone who might want to pay it a visit--for ASC graduates organized by a Bahrain Transparency Society, which I'd not previously heard of. Anyway, as you would expect, Al Bin Khalil insists that such a meeting is tantamount to a gathering of American spies, and notes incredulously that despite receiving "official promises from the university administration that the center will see changes" following his previous self-styled exposé back in June, "there seems to be an insistence that the American Madrasah Center [sic!] continue ... to train Bahraini political cadres that will turn into anti-state political activists and rights defenders in the name of freedom and human rights." He asks probingly, "Is the university administration aware of the organization of this event for these students?"
Well, interestingly, I today received an e-mail from the ASC listserv that announced the following:
From: xxx
Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Subject: [ASC EMail Discussion List] ASC Annual Graduation Dinner


Dear ASC Students, past and current,

Due to circumstances beyond our control, this year's ASC Graduation Dinner has had to be postponed - NOT CANCELED! - till September when the new semester begins.

We will notify you and hope for a good turnout since everyone will be back in town.

Thanks for your patience and have a great summer reading good stuff!

Apparently, "due to circumstances beyond our control" is another way of saying "a pro-government op-ed writer somehow convinced the university administration that we are all tools of the U.S. military-industrial complex." Maybe I should try to pay Al Bin Khalil to write an op-ed arguing that I should be installed as prime minister. The way things are looking now, sadly, that might just do the trick.

We may end with a few more details about the upcoming demonstrations this weekend. The February 14 rally in front of the Embassy we have already treated. Al-Wifaq's rally down al-Budaiyi' Road (a name, incidentally, that really annoys Shi'a since despite running through a dozen or so Shi'a villages, it is named after al-Budaiyi' village proper, which is, of course, Sunni-settled)--this al-Budaiyi' rally will take place on what al-Wifaq is calling "Perseverance Friday." Its slogan is "The People Are the Source of [the Political, i.e. Executive and Legislative] Powers." The flier includes pictures from the six previous weekend protests so you can see what you've been missing out on.

Yet this is not all. For the first day of Ramadan there is planned a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Labor (which I think is in 'Isa Town) for those laid off from government jobs for "expression of opinion or calling for political change." They are demanding their jobs back, compensation for lost wages, an end to corruption, etc., and they even have some nice fliers of their own:

And this one I really like:

Finally, we may mention the content of a royal decree promulgated today that is only significant because it is so funny. The BNA announces:
His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa issued today decree 82 for 2011 appointing Alice Thomas Sama’an as head of the Bahraini Diplomatic Mission to the United Kingdom at the rank of Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador.
If the name Alice Thomas Sama'an strikes you as a bit odd for a Bahraini female who is to head its UN delegation, it is because she happens to be a member of the country's hundreds-strong indigenous (sort of, she is Lebanese) Christian community. She is also a token Christian member of the Shura Council.

In her role as Female Religious Minority Public Relations Assistant, Sama'an joins a select company. This includes Bahrain's "first elected female MP in the Arab Gulf," Latifah Al Gaoud, whose electoral district--the Southern 6th--Bahrainis derisively note is home to "10,000 birds and gazelles"--and only 770 registered voters as of the 2010 election. (One Shi'i district in the Northern Governorate, by contrast, is home to 16,223 voters.) In two terms, she has yet to run opposed.

It also includes "the first Jewish female ambassador of an Arab nation," Bahrain's ambassador to the United States from among its 36-strong Jewish community. If one would question my interpretation of such appointments as PR moves, consider this explanation from the head of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (quoted in the New York Times no less):
We always believe here that control of America is governed by the Zionist lobby. The media and the money are all in the hands of the Jews. We believe if we have a Jewish ambassador and Jews in the Shura Council, this is a positive indicator for the country.
Any other questions?

Update: the February 14 rally flier is finally up (thanks to a commenter for the link), and she's a beaut. Funnily, however, it includes English translations of most of the details--presumably for foreign (U.S.) consumption--except for the tiny fact that it is to take place in front of the U.S. Embassy! Oops.

Update 2: many are reporting that the planned Embassy demonstration was blocked by.. roadblocks, which I guess is not difficult to do since it sits at the corner of two streets and is backed by the highway. As Chief Wiggum would say, "That's nice work, boys."

On the other hand, al-Wifaq's rally did go ahead, and they've already got the video to prove it:


  1. Justin - Good and well rounded summary of the latest happening on the Bahraini stage. I think only news item that you missed, and is probably a fascinating development, is the internal conflict taking place within Al Wifaq. As of yesterday there were several news items circulating in relation to a number of resignations amongst the "reformers" within Al Wifaq, followed by the Party's decision to disqualify all members not resident in Bahrain (a clear shot at those in exile and taking the hardline). This is not to mention that their secretary general, Ali Salman, seems to not even be in the country. Maybe he took my advice to get back to luxury and vacation with his GCC bretheren in London. I think we are seeing the first cracks of sustained and well orchestrated government pressure, they can do their 1KM march up and down Budaiya road, whatever turns them on, but evidently their house is NOT in order!

    That aside, I think the whole US Embassy saga is merely a card that is being played with government blessing. After all, what better fall back can you have than to say to your American friends "look my hands are tied, my people think you are getting too involved". Its all good theatre, both the US and the Bahraini government know that.

    On the appointment of our Ambassador in London, all I can say is its a mistake. While our Ambassador in Washington is cute looking (at 15 meters away or more), she cannot even string a couple of sentences together to come across any better than a high school bubble gum chewing bimbo. Has anyone watched her interview with Richard Quest on CNN?? As she would say OH-MY-GAWWWD?!? Alice Semaan is not any better and is purely an act of posturing on the part of our government. As a defender of the crown, I am respectful of the decisions our government make, but on this count cant agree with it. Heres a thought, since we are in the process of opening our first ever embassy to Rome and the Vatican, wouldn't Mrs. Semaan make a better fit there? You know, playing the whole Bahrain is a major hub of Christendom and all?!?!?

  2. Sal Rahim. I whole heartedly agree. Well said my friend.

  3. @Sal: Haha, funny about her going to Italy. Although I don't know how well they would take to non-Catholics!

    Also, I did see the report about al-Wifaq disqualifying non-residents, I think in the Bahrain Mirror, though I didn't hear about the "resignations." Any source on that? I'll have to follow the al-Wifaq situation more closely.

  4. Justin, in regards to the al-Wefaq stuff, here's an article:

  5. Hrm, well at least here they are denying the resignations, which the article says are based on "rumors." Any source for these rumors? I ask because the article makes it sound like people were resigning over the decision to exit the dialogue; it seems hard to believe that there were many who were THAT upset by such a decision.

    Also, what's the speculation on the DQ of non-residents? Might it have something to do with the upcoming by-elections?

  6. I don't know personally, but one could guess a few things... When some of them go out, they're not as in sync with the current al-Wefaq moves and would say or do things that are not in line with al-Wefaq's moves on the ground...

    Or perhaps when these guys go out, they tend to change their platforms...

    Who knows, but either way, it seems like al-Wefaq based it all on their membership clauses and all.

  7. Yes, right. The "official" reason is all very legalese. Sort of like when the government started destroying mosques and ma'tams because of a lack of "official" registration paperwork.

    I guess we'll have to wait and see.


    Here's that nice flier you were waiting for...

  9. Al-Buflasa was released recently as you may have heard, he's released a statement to (none other than) Al-Ayam, here are the links:-


    Thought you might find this interesting. I sure did, especially when he said (not verbatim):
    "خلال فترة الاعتقال شفت الأمور بشكل أوضح"

  10. Hah, more like: "I saw the error of my ways." Does that mean he has been politically-rehabilitated? I saw his release and even noted it in my last post.

  11. Pretty soon he will be showing up at National Unity Gathering rallies right?