FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Bahrain declares US diplomat persona non grata
Just when you thought the Obama administration had done all the damage it could possibly do in the Arab world you find out you are wrong. Via the LA Times
Bahrain announced Monday that it was expelling a top State Department official for meddling in its affairs, sharpening tensions between the Obama administration and a strategically important Persian Gulf ally.
The state-run Bahrain News Agency said the government had declared Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor, persona non grata because he had “intervened flagrantly” in its internal affairs.
This may be the first time in the history of the Republic that we’ve had a CIA station chief and a senior diplomat declared persona non grata in the same week by two of our allies. When you think about it, it is actually quite an accomplishment and truly a record for the ages.
Bahrain is a smallish nation on the Persian Gulf. I also happens to host some important US military facilities. Like so many other nations in the Gulf region its population is divided between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Sunnis are the minority and dominate the military and the government. Like I said, stop me if you’ve heard this before. The Shia feel oppressed, they are largely unemployed, and because Bahrain has a social safety net they spend their idle hours bitching about conditions, demonstrating, and plotting revolution. And periodically getting thrashed by security forces. Who is helping them out?
Bahrain has accused Iran’s Revolutionary Guards of providing opposition fighters with explosives training in order to carry out attacks in the Gulf kingdom, also announcing that it had arrested five suspects.
The chief prosecutor said two men had been arrested while they were “on a boat receiving weapons, munitions and explosives to be smuggled from a boat at sea into the country. Three other accused group members were also arrested.”
On Monday, Bahraini authorities said they had seized a boat smuggling explosives made in Iran and Syria into the country.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Into this sensitive situation comes our diplomat, Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights, and labor and behaves like the proverbial bull in a china shop.
Malinowski had “held meetings with a particular party to the detriment of other interlocutors, thus discriminating between one people, contravening diplomatic norms and flouting normal interstate relations,” the news agency said.
The Obama administration depends on Bahrain, which is host to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Yet relations have been strained by U.S. efforts to work out a political accommodation between the Sunni Muslim monarchy and its restless Shiite Muslim majority.
At one time the Bahrainis might have overlooked this egregious behavior but several things have happened that required them to nip this in the bud. If they are obvious to me, they should be obvious to the State department. But sadly, there seems to be damned little obvious to State these days about how of forward American diplomatic interests.
- Iran is on the march. Thanks to Obama, Iran has nearly swallowed Shia Iraq and has more influence and a higher profile in both Syria and Lebanon. At the same time, the administration seems to think Iran is serious about giving up its nuclear ambitions.
- The US is an unreliable ally. Anywhere you look in the world today you see the most dangerous place to find yourself is as an ally of the United States. Ukraine? Sold out. Czech Republic? Abandoned. Germany? Serially humiliated. Japan and South Korea? Both are looking over their shoulders. Poland? Baltic States? Iraq? Israel?
- The US under Obama is dangerously meddlesome in the affairs of its allies. Deposing them, regardless of who might be in charge afterwards seems to be our national policy. See, for instance, Egypt and Tunisia.
- The US under Obama is more interested in the perceived bragging rights in cheaply overthrowing governments rather that working within any geopolitical strategic scheme. For instance, Libya and Syria.
Small wonder then that the Bahraini government was less than pleased with a US official, especially a former lobbyist for the left wing Human Rights Watch, huddling with the leaders of a large, restive population that is fundamentally hostile to the government of Bahrain. The incredibly dumb State Department spokesperson, Jennifer Psaki (I say dense because I should say stupid, in the past week alone Psaki denied Hamas had any governance role in the Palestinian authority just as papers were announcing a “unity” government including Hamas and she was unaware that Japan was considering changing its existing defense policy), weighed in with the usual whine:
Psaki said in a statement that the administration was “deeply concerned” over the decision to demand Malinowski’s immediate departure. She said the trip was coordinated “far in advance” and encouraged by the Bahraini government, “which is well aware that U.S. government officials routinely meet with all officially recognized political societies.”
“Contrary to our longstanding bilateral relationship and in violation of international diplomatic protocol, the government insisted — without advance warning and after his visit had already commenced — to have a Foreign Ministry representative present at all of Malinowski’s private meetings with individuals and groups representing a broad spectrum of Bahraini society, including those at the U.S. Embassy,” her statement said.
That may be true, but overthrowing our allies hasn’t been our “longstanding bilateral relationship” and seeing the way the Obama administration has stood aside and acquiesced to Iranian expansionism seems to have convinced Bahrain that they need to look to their own welfare.