Saudi Arabia is upset at the US for abandoning Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and also for Obama’s embracing “peaceful protests”. The New York Times discusses the strained ties in U.S.-Saudi Tensions Intensify With Mideast Turmoil
Even before Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain on Monday to quell an uprising it fears might spill across its own borders, American officials were increasingly concerned that the kingdom’s stability could ultimately be threatened by regional unrest, succession politics and its resistance to reform.
So far, oil-rich Saudi Arabia has successfully stifled public protests with a combination of billions of dollars in new jobs programs and an overwhelming police presence, backed by warnings last week from the foreign minister to “cut any finger that crosses into the kingdom.”
Monday’s action, in which more than 2,000 Saudi-led troops from gulf states crossed the narrow causeway into Bahrain, demonstrated that the Saudis were willing to back their threats with firepower.
The move created another quandary for the Obama administration, which obliquely criticized the Saudi action without explicitly condemning the kingdom, its most important Arab ally. The criticism was another sign of strains in the historically close relationship with Riyadh, as the United States pushes the country to make greater reforms to avert unrest.
Other symptoms of stress seem to be cropping up everywhere.
Saudi officials have made no secret of their deep displeasure with how President Obama handled the ouster of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, charging Washington with abandoning a longtime ally. They show little patience with American messages about embracing what Mr. Obama calls “universal values,” including peaceful protests.
When Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were forced to cancel visits to the kingdom in recent days, American officials were left wondering whether the cause was King Abdullah’s frail health — or his pique at the United States.
“They’re not in a mode for listening,” said one senior administration official, referring to the American exchanges with Saudi officials over the past two months about the need to get ahead of the protests that have engulfed other Arab states, including two of Saudi Arabia’s neighbors, Bahrain and Yemen.
In the view of White House officials, any weakness or chaos inside Saudi Arabia would be exploited by Iran.
For that reason, several current and former senior American intelligence and regional experts warned that in the months ahead, the administration must proceed delicately when confronting the Saudis about social and political reforms.
”Over the years, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been fraught with periods of tension over the strategic partnership,” said Ellen Laipson, president of the Stimson Center, a public policy organization. “Post-September 11 was one period, and the departure of Mubarak may be another, when they question whether we are fair-weather friends.”
Saudi Troops Enter Bahrain to Help Put Down Unrest
Please consider Saudi Troops Enter Bahrain to Help Put Down Unrest
Troops from Saudi Arabia and police officers from the United Arab Emirates crossed into Bahrain on Monday under the aegis of the Gulf Cooperation Council to help quell unrest there, a move Bahraini opposition groups denounced in a statement as an “occupation.”
Witnesses said a convoy of 150 armored troop carriers and about 50 other lightly armed vehicles carried about 1,000 troops across the bridge linking Saudi Arabia to the tiny island kingdom, and a Saudi security official told The Associated Press that the troops were there to protect critical buildings and installations like oil facilities. However, witnesses later said that the convoy seemed to be heading for Riffa, a Sunni area that is home to the royal family and a military hospital that is closed to the public, Reuters reported.
The opposition statement said it considered the arrival of any soldier or military vehicle “an overt occupation of the kingdom of Bahrain and a conspiracy against the unarmed people of Bahrain.”
A senior administration official said the United States was “definitely concerned” by the deployment of troops, saying the protests in Bahrain needed “a political solution, not military.” The State Department dispatched Jeffrey D. Feltman, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, to Bahrain on Monday. He had been scheduled to join Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her travels to Egypt and Tunisia this week.
The latest protests occurred a day after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stopped in Bahrain and warned the Khalifa family, which has ruled Bahrain for two centuries, that it must go beyond the “baby steps” of reform to meet the economic and political demands sweeping much of the Arab world.
The White House issued a statement on Sunday that said the United States strongly condemned violence that had occurred in Bahrain and Yemen, and added, “We urge the government of Bahrain to pursue a peaceful and meaningful dialogue with the opposition rather than resorting to the use of force.”
Bahrain, a kingdom on the Persian Gulf, is home to the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet and is a crucial American ally. The Obama administration has supported the Khalifa family through the unrest, in contrast to its efforts to remove the leaders of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. But the White House has tried to push Bahrain’s government to meet many of the protesters’ demands, worried that Iran, which is overwhelmingly Shiite, could exploit the unhappiness of Shiites in Bahrain.
Bahrain’s crown prince, Sheik Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, meanwhile, renewed a call for national dialogue on Sunday, promising that the talks would address proposals to increase the power of Parliament, Reuters reported.
“We have worked actively to establish contacts to learn the views of various sides,” he said in a statement that was read on Bahrain TV, “which shows our commitment to a comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue.”
Mr. Gates said on Saturday that he told the king and crown prince that change “could be led or it could be imposed.”
He added, “Obviously, leading reform and being responsive is the way we’d like to see this move forward.”
The New York Times reports Provincial Governor Stabbed During Clash in Yemen, Journalists Deported
A Yemeni provincial governor was stabbed in a melee with antigovernment protesters on Monday, the official news agency Saba reported. Local reports said the stabbing occurred after the governor’s bodyguards opened fire on the protesters, injuring dozens.
The clash was the most violent of several reported around Yemen in the widening uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In a sign that the government was ratcheting up its efforts to control news coverage of the unrest, four Western journalists said they were seized in an armed raid on their apartment in the Yemeni capital early Monday and expelled from the country.
The injured governor, Naji al-Zaidi of tribal-dominated Marib Province, was taken to the capital, Sana, and hospitalized.
In Al Jawf, a desperately poor northern province also dominated by tribes, local reports said that security forces open fire, injuring about 15 protesters.
Global Growth Will Slow
Recent news has not been favorable in Japan, in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia, or in Libya. Meanwhile, Europe is bracing for a series of rate hikes by the ECB. In the US, the effects of state cutbacks have yet to be felt, and China has done little to reduce overheating.
In light of the above highly doubt GDP estimates will be met in Europe, in the US, or in Asia.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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