'Al-Sharq Al-Awsat' Editor: The U.S. Has No Clear Picture of Middle East Situation; In Her Statements, Clinton 'Sounds More Like the Iranian Foreign Minister Than Like the U.S. [Secretary of State]'
March 21, 2011
Special Dispatch No.3686
In two recent articles in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Tariq Alhomayed, the paper's editor-in-chief, criticized the U.S.'s stance on the recent uprisings in the Arab world, especially regarding the deployment of the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) Peninsula Shield Force to Bahrain to suppress Shi'ite anti-regime protests there. Both articles accused the U.S. of lacking a proper understanding of the situation in the Gulf.
In his first article, published March 16, 2011, Alhomayed depicted Iran as the true danger behind the protests in Bahrain, which, he claimed, the U.S. failed to grasp. In his second article, published March 17, he criticized recent statements by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying that "she sounds more like the Iranian foreign minister than like the U.S. [secretary of state]."
Following is a translation of the two articles:
The U.S. Must Restrain Its Contradictory Statements Vis--vis the Middle East Which Reflect Its Poor Grasp of the Situation
In his March 16, 2011 article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, editor-in-chief Tariq Alhomayed criticized the U.S. for its inconsistency regarding the recent uprisings in the Arab world such as calling on the Bahraini government to exercise restraint in dealing with protestors while expressing opposition to the demonstrations in Yemen. It should be noted that the article, under the title "The U.S. Must Restrain Its Statements," appeared in the paper's English-language edition as "America's Inconsistent Statements," and was noticeably milder in tone. In the original Arabic article, Alhomayed suggested that the U.S. had failed to realize that the demands of the Shi'ite protestors in Bahrain were not democratic, but a manifestation of Iran's threat to Bahrain and the Gulf states. The following is the translation:
"Amidst America's contradictory comments regarding the events in our region, one particular statement always stands out, namely the call for restraint. Two days ago, the Americans reiterated this same statement in comments on the [GCC's] Peninsula Shield Force's entering Manama, at Bahrain's request.
"The fact is that the U.S. administration must restrain its statements, because the contradictory statements coming out of Washington have become more than merely perplexing; they are also suspicious. How can the U.S. defense secretary say that Bahrain must enact speedy reforms to put an end to Iranian interference... while the Americans are also issuing statements saying that in Yemen, protests are not the solution, and that there must be dialogue? Why must the Bahrain government to act immediately, while the demonstrators in Yemen must to wait? This is wrong, and it raises both suspicion and doubt...
"As I said above, rather than trying to understand what is happening in our region, the U.S. is continuing to release statements, and media leaks left and right... The U.S. [says] that Bahrain should accelerate its reform, and that America supports international values, but ignores what is happening in Libya, and demands that the demonstrators in Yemen be rational. This is not to mention that that the U.S. is ignoring what is happening in Iran, where the state oppresses its minorities. [As recently as] yesterday, the Iranian opposition has tried to come out and protest in Tehran, only to be repressed, and its key figures have been arrested. This is a perplexing matter indeed, but it clearly tells us something that is, that Washington does not have a clear picture of what is going on in the region, and that even if it does, it is too weak to act."
"It Is Unacceptable to Entrust Our Necks, and Our Futures, To Iran"
"Washington has ignored the threat of the Iran-funded Houthis, and this matter ended with Saudi security forces clashing with [the Houthis]. Today, the U.S. portrays what is happening in Bahrain as a democratic demand, while ignoring the fact that Bahrain is not a purely Shi'ite state. There are Sunnis [there, as well]. [The U.S. has also ignored] recent Iranian statements to the effect that Bahrain is part of Iran's history. Washington has tried to reach a truce with Iran, and eased up on its nuclear program...
"[The issue] is not [that Bahrain wishes] to avoid reform, or democracy [the democracy] under which Washington effectively handed Iraq over to Tehran, and left us with the Iran-sponsored Hizbullah in Lebanon [but that] it is unacceptable to entrust our necks, and our futures, to Iran. It is the U.S. administration that must restrain its statements, rather than demanding restraint from the Gulf [states]."
How Can Clinton Criticize the Gulf States' Intervention in Bahrain When She Herself Interferes In Bahrain's Domestic Affairs?
In his March 17, 2011 article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, titled "Bahrain: Who Is Speaking Tehran or Washington?" Alhomayed wondered whether U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was fully aware of the circumstances surrounding the situation in Bahrain and the Gulf, and that in her statements regarding the deployment of GCC troops in Bahrain she "sounds more like the Iranian foreign minister than like the U.S. [secretary of state]." The following is the translation of the article:
"U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the Arab Gulf states are on the wrong track by becoming involved in Bahrain, vis--vis the dispatch of the GCC's Peninsula Shield Force to the country to protect its security. She also called on the Bahraini government to initiate dialogue with the Shi'ite opposition.
"This statement, in itself, is strange, and causes those following the situation to wonder: Is the U.S. secretary of state well-informed about what is happening on the ground [in Bahrain]? This is because she sounds more like the Iranian foreign minister than like the U.S. [secretary of state]...
"After all, Peninsula Shield Force troops entered Bahrain in accordance with GCC agreements, and their mission is to maintain the security of Bahrain's infrastructure because they are security forces, not military personnel!... Ms. Hillary said that the Gulf states made a mistake in getting involved in Bahrain, despite all the clear and explicit agreements and pacts between the GCC states signed over two decades ago. Yet she permits herself to interfere in Bahraini domestic affairs? This is truly an embarrassment!
"What is even more curious is that in the very same interview, the U.S. secretary of state said, "We need Arab leadership and Arab participation in whatever the U.N. decides to do [regarding Libya]." So how can the involvement of [neighboring countries in Bahrain], that are united by pacts and a joint council [i.e. the GCC], be considered a mistake and undesirable while at the same time the U.S. demands Arab involvement in Libya? What could be more contradictory than this?
Clinton's Statements More Like What We'd Expect to Hear from the Iranian Foreign Minister
"Of course, the questions regarding the U.S. secretary of state's statements do not stop here. Is Hillary Clinton aware of the fact that the Shi'ite opposition in Bahrain occupied the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama and allowed only Shi'ites to receive treatment there? Did the U.S. secretary [of state] hear about the clashes in some Bahraini schools between Sunni and Shi'ite students? Is the U.S. secretary [of state] aware that the entire country has been paralyzed [by these protests]? Is the U.S. secretary [of state] aware that Bahrain has not only Shi'ites, but Sunnis as well, and that therefore all demands for reform regarding the composition of Bahrain indeed, of any country must follow a national consensus, not a sectarian one?
"When the U.S. secretary [of state] talks about the necessity of dialogue, and demands that the Bahraini government initiate dialogue [with the opposition,] is she aware that it is the Bahraini government that has been calling on the Shi'ite opposition to sit down and engage in dialogue, ever since this crisis began? Indeed, [is she aware] that the Bahraini king charged the crown prince with conducting a dialogue [with the opposition], and the only response from the Bahraini opposition was rejection, and increased demands, to the point of calling for the establishment of a Republic of Bahrain?
"Therefore, the best thing that can be said about U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's statements, which are more like what we'd expect to hear from the Iranian foreign minister, is that either they indicate that she is unaware of what is happening on the ground in Bahrain, or that they are aimed solely at scoring public opinion points especially since they came after security forces had managed to disperse the demonstrators and liberate Bahrain's main roads and the Salmaniya Medical Complex. [A third possibility is that] such statements reveal the degree to which Washington is floundering in the region!
"Whatever the reason, each one is worse than the last."