Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hillary Clinton Says Bahrain Government is on "Wrong Track," But Doesn't Condemn It

Nick Kristof of the Times points out today that Bahrain's government is a close friend of the US. Yet our close friend "pulled a Qaddafi" in violently suppressing peaceful protest.

So what was our response to the violence? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Cairo yesterday and  responded to multiple questions in multiple interviews. She clearly said that the Bahraini government was on the wrong track, but she didn't exactly condemn them or take any steps to sanction them:

To Steve Inkseep of NPR:

QUESTION: As a realist, watching the news from Libya, watching the news from Bahrain, where the government has fired on protestors, are you in a position of accepting that some of the Arab uprisings are simply going to fail?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. But we are in a position of supporting the popular uprisings by people themselves and doing everything we can to help nurture that democracy. We’re alarmed by the situation in Bahrain, and we have spoken very forcefully against the security crackdown, in fact, at the highest levels of the government. And with the Gulf countries, we’ve made it very clear that there cannot be a security answer to what are legitimate political questions. And the sooner that the government of Bahrain and the opposition, which has resisted negotiations as well, get back to the negotiating table, the more likely that this matter can be resolved. And there has been absolutely no doubt about where the United States has stood on this. And we have communicated that in every way possible.

To the press pool:

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think what’s happening in Bahrain is alarming, and it is unfortunately diverting attention and effort away from the political and economic track that is the only way forward to resolve the legitimate differences of the Bahrainis themselves. We have made that clear time and time again. We have deplored the use of force. We have said not only to the Bahrainis but to our Gulf partners that we do not think security is the answer to what is going on.
Now, we’ve also said to the protestors that they have to engage in peaceful protest and they should return to the negotiating table. As you probably know, Jeff Feltman [Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs] is in Manama, is in constant touch with the government. There’s a lot of other communication going on. We have also reminded the Bahrainis that they have an obligation to keep medical facilities open and to facilitate treatment of the injured, and we want to see an end to the use of force and a return to negotiation.
QUESTION: So basically, the use of force is the wrong track?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it is the wrong track. And we believe that a long-term solution is only possible through a political process.

To Kim Ghattas of the BBC:

QUESTION: When you look at what’s going on in Libya and in Bahrain, it seems to me that – or it seems to a lot of people that the lesson from the Egyptian revolution is quite clear, a lesson that Arab leaders can draw: Don’t give an inch to the protestors, unleash your fire power, or you’re out the door like President Mubarak.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that’s a wrong reading of history. I think the --
QUESTION: But isn’t that what these leaders are doing in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they may be taking short-term measures that will not have the long-term effects they are seeking. I think the situation in Bahrain is alarming. We have made it very clear at the highest levels of the government there that we think they’re on the wrong track, that they need to resume immediately a political dialogue. We deplore the use of force against demonstrators, and we deplore the use of force by demonstrators. We want a peaceful resolution. We also would remind the Bahraini Government to protect medical facilities and to facilitate treatment of the injured, and we have called on our friends in the Gulf – four of whom are assisting the Bahrain security efforts – to force through a political solution, not a security standoff.
QUESTION: But they’re your allies, and they’re not listening to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I wish we could get everybody in the world to do what we ask them to do. I think that would make for a more peaceful world, but countries make their own decisions. But the United States stands very clearly on the side of peaceful protest, nonviolent resolution, political reform. And I think that what happened in Egypt and Tunisia are really the models of what will happen. It may take a little longer, but there is no turning back the tide of democracy and the universal human rights of every person to have freedom and an opportunity to fulfill his or her own dreams.
QUESTION: So what leverage do you still have on countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia? They’re your allies. You – they – you train their armies. You supply them with weapons. And yet when the Saudis decided to send troops into Bahrain – and I believe Washington made clear it wasn’t pleased about that – they said, “Don’t interfere. This is an internal GCC matter.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they are on notice as to what we think. And we will intend to make that very clear publicly and privately, and we will do everything we can to try to move this off the wrong track, which we believe is going to undermine long-term progress in Bahrain, to the right track, which is the political and economic track.

To Wyatt Andrew of CBS News:
QUESTION: Let’s move to Bahrain, please. There was renewed violence in Bahrain today. Several pro-democracy demonstrators were killed. This comes on the heels, in just the last week where both Secretary Gates and you have asked the Bahraini leadership for restraint. So what is American policy now that the Bahraini leadership doesn’t seem to be listening?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we find what’s happening in Bahrain alarming. We think that there is no security answer to the aspirations and demands of the demonstrators. We’ve made it very clear to the Bahraini Government at the highest levels that we expect them to exercise restraint. We would remind them of their humanitarian obligation to keep medical facilities open and to facilitate the treatment of the injured, and to get back to the negotiating table. We have also made that very clear to our Gulf partners who are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, four of whose members have sent troops to support the Bahraini Government. They are on the wrong track. There is no security answer to this. And the sooner they get back to the negotiating table and start trying to answer the legitimate needs of the people, the sooner there can be a resolution that will be in the best interest of everyone.
QUESTION: But right now, Madam Secretary, does it make the United States look bad? Does it give the United States a black eye to be so allied with a monarchy that is now shooting its own people?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are absolutely opposed to the use of force, and we have said that repeatedly. Secretary Gates gave a very strong message to the Bahraini Government when he was there, and not only urging restraint but pointing out all of the problems if they were to pursue any other alternative. So we have been very clear about that, and we are going to continue to stress what we think is in the best interests not only of Bahrain and the people of Bahrain, but of the entire region. This kind of use of force against peaceful demonstrators, a refusal on all sides – because we want to make sure that no one is using force, whether they are in the security forces or in the demonstrators, everyone needs to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner and to look for a political solution. There is no long-term alternative other than that.

To Andrea Mitchell of NBC News:   
QUESTION: There are more casualties in Bahrain. The Saudis intervened. The other – the UAE and others moved in, even after you had appealed for calm and expressed your deep concern. What does this say about the U.S.-Saudi relationship? Defense Secretary Gates was in Bahrain only last Friday and had no heads-up that this was going to happen.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know. I think it’s fair to say from everything we are seeing that the situation in Bahrain is alarming. We are in touch with the highest levels of the Bahraini Government today, as we have been for the last – a period of time. And our message is consistent and strong: There is no way to resolve the concerns of the Bahraini people through the use of excessive force or security crackdowns. There have to be political negotiations that lead to a political resolution. We have urged all the parties, including the Gulf countries, to pursue a political resolution. That is what we are pushing, along with others who are concerned by what they see happening. We would remind the Bahraini Government of their obligation to protect medical facilities and to facilitate the treatment of those who might be injured in any of the demonstrations and to exercise the greatest restraint. Get to the negotiating table and resolve the differences in Bahrain peacefully, politically.
QUESTION: They’re ignoring us so far. Is there anything more that you can do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are very concerned and have reached out to a lot of different partners. There’s a lot of the same messages coming in from across Europe and the region to the Bahraini Government. And in fact, one of our assistant secretaries for the region is actually there working on a – literally hour-by-hour basis. We do not think this is in the best interest of Bahrain. We consider Bahrain a partner. We have worked with them. We think they’re on the wrong track, and we think that the wrong track is going to really affect adversely the ability of the Bahraini Government to bring about the political reform that everyone says is needed.

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