Bahrain expels US diplomat

Is Obama’s State Department crazy, or just plain stupid?  Last Sunday, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski met with senior members of the Al-Wefaq group, Bahrain’s leading opposition movement to the constitutional monarchy of King Al-Khalifa. The next day, Malinowski was ordered by the government of Bahrain to leave the country declaring him “unwelcome” since he had met with the Shia group and saying,

…he had intervened in the country’s domestic affairs by selectively holding meetings with some groups while ignoring others, and that he had “contravened diplomatic norms and flouted normal interstate relations…”

Al-Wefaq has been a key player in the majority Shia opposition in Bahrain, including the 14 February Uprising which was eventually quelled with the help of 1000 troops from Saudi Arabia and 500 troops from UAE.  Since then, Al-Wefaq has been at the fore of almost weekly protests in the capital, which has resulted in frequent warnings from the US embassy in Manama.

What is especially galling about Malinowski’s meeting is the judgment of many that the group is aligned with Iran and Hezbollah.  This view is not shared by all analysts, but existing evidence points in that direction.  Among other indicators:

  • Members of al-Wefaq have studied in Iran and Iraq. Ali Salman, the organisation's leader, was educated at the theological centre of Qom [Iran].
  • Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the group, was also educated abroad and studied at some of the most prestigious religious institutions in Najaf, Iraq, where he was reportedly taught by cleric Mohamed Baqir al-Sadr.  He also studied in Qom, where he acquired the title of ayatollah.
  • …allegations from the government that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and other senior officials met with members of Al-Wefaq to fuel protests against the government.

Whether the Iran linkage is true or not has been hotly debated.  But to send a US state department human rights advocate to talk with only one opposition group, which potentially has ties to the Iranian mullahs is the height of stupidity or another possibly deliberate act of the administration to sow instability and chaos in the region.

In fact, we now have two instances where Obama’s actions have stirred the pot in countries which host US bases.  First was the Taliban prisoner swap to Qatar, likely supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood  and where the US has Al-Udeid airbase and CENTCOM Forward HQ; and now this incident with Bahrain, which is home port to the US Fifth Fleet.  Taken together, it strains credulity that these are a revival of Jimmy Carter’s naïve “human rights” diplomacy philosophy.

After Malinowski’s departure, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reaction was that the DoS was “deeply concerned” about the expulsion.  Maybe if Obama and his functionaries looked beyond the beltway, they’d be deeply concerned about the security of our service members in the region.

Is Obama’s State Department crazy, or just plain stupid?  Last Sunday, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski met with senior members of the Al-Wefaq group, Bahrain’s leading opposition movement to the constitutional monarchy of King Al-Khalifa. The next day, Malinowski was ordered by the government of Bahrain to leave the country declaring him “unwelcome” since he had met with the Shia group and saying,

…he had intervened in the country’s domestic affairs by selectively holding meetings with some groups while ignoring others, and that he had “contravened diplomatic norms and flouted normal interstate relations…”

Al-Wefaq has been a key player in the majority Shia opposition in Bahrain, including the 14 February Uprising which was eventually quelled with the help of 1000 troops from Saudi Arabia and 500 troops from UAE.  Since then, Al-Wefaq has been at the fore of almost weekly protests in the capital, which has resulted in frequent warnings from the US embassy in Manama.

What is especially galling about Malinowski’s meeting is the judgment of many that the group is aligned with Iran and Hezbollah.  This view is not shared by all analysts, but existing evidence points in that direction.  Among other indicators:

  • Members of al-Wefaq have studied in Iran and Iraq. Ali Salman, the organisation's leader, was educated at the theological centre of Qom [Iran].
  • Sheikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the group, was also educated abroad and studied at some of the most prestigious religious institutions in Najaf, Iraq, where he was reportedly taught by cleric Mohamed Baqir al-Sadr.  He also studied in Qom, where he acquired the title of ayatollah.
  • …allegations from the government that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and other senior officials met with members of Al-Wefaq to fuel protests against the government.

Whether the Iran linkage is true or not has been hotly debated.  But to send a US state department human rights advocate to talk with only one opposition group, which potentially has ties to the Iranian mullahs is the height of stupidity or another possibly deliberate act of the administration to sow instability and chaos in the region.

In fact, we now have two instances where Obama’s actions have stirred the pot in countries which host US bases.  First was the Taliban prisoner swap to Qatar, likely supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood  and where the US has Al-Udeid airbase and CENTCOM Forward HQ; and now this incident with Bahrain, which is home port to the US Fifth Fleet.  Taken together, it strains credulity that these are a revival of Jimmy Carter’s naïve “human rights” diplomacy philosophy.

After Malinowski’s departure, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reaction was that the DoS was “deeply concerned” about the expulsion.  Maybe if Obama and his functionaries looked beyond the beltway, they’d be deeply concerned about the security of our service members in the region.