"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


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Friday, February 18, 2011

Bahraini Troops Fire on Protesters




"Soldiers opened fire Friday on thousands of protesters defying a government ban and streaming toward the landmark square that had been the symbolic center of the uprising to break the political grip of the Gulf nation's leaders.

"Officials at the main Salmaniya hospital said at least 50 people were injured, some with gunshot wounds. Some doctors and medics on emergency medical teams were in tears as they tended to the wounded. X-rays showed bullets still lodged inside victims.

"'This is a war,' said Dr. Bassem Deif, an orthopedic surgeon examining people with bullet-shattered bones.

"Health ministry officials said in a statement that seven people were critically injured.

"Protesters described a chaotic scene of tear gas clouds, bullets coming from many directions and people slipping in pools of blood as they sought cover. Some claimed the gunfire came from either helicopters or sniper nests, a day after riot police swept through the protest encampment in Pearl Square, killing at least five people and razing the tents and makeshift shelters that were inspired by the demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

"The clash came hours after funeral mourners and worshippers at Friday prayers called for the toppling of the Western-allied monarchy in the tiny island nation that is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, the centerpiece of the Pentagon's efforts to confront Iranian military influence. Some members of Bahrain's Sunni ruling system worry that Shiite powerhouse Iran could use Bahrain's majority Shiites as a further foothold in the region."

Obama is running the same by-the-numbers response from Egypt, urging restraint and pretty much vaguely backing the protesters without knowing who they are, what they want, nor who backs them. And of course without taking into account what is in the best interests of the US allies in the region. Amateur ideologue...

From the AP:

"U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the reports of violence against the protesters in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, urging government restraint.

"'I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,' Obama said. 'The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.'"

Of course Obama didn't mention of the unrest in Iran. It is interesting how quickly he has jumped onto the protesters band wagon elsewhere, but steadfastly refused to condemn the violent crackdown of the Green Revolution by the Iranian government. What does that say?

Back to the article:

"Bahrain's king appointed Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa to lead a dialogue 'with all parties,' though it was unclear whether furious protesters would respond to the overture. Speaking on Bahrain's State TV, Salman expressed condolences for 'these painful days' and called for unity.

"'We are at a crossroads,' Salman said. 'Youths are going out on the street believing that they have no future in the country, while others are going out to express their love and loyalty. But this country is for you all, for the Shiites and Sunnis.'"

[...]

"At a Shiite mosque in the village of Diraz, an anti-government hotbed, imam Isa Qassim called the Pearl Square assault a 'massacre' and thousands of worshippers chanted: 'The regime must go.'

"In a sign of Bahrain's deep divisions, government loyalists filled Manama's Grand Mosque to hear words of support for the monarchy and take part in a post-sermon march protected by security forces. Many arrived with Bahraini flags draped over the traditional white robes worn by Gulf men. Portraits of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa were distributed.

"'We must protect our country,' said Adnan al-Qattan, the cleric leading prayers. 'We are living in dangerous times.'

"He denounced attempts to 'open the doors to evil and foreign influences' — an apparent reference to suspicions that Shiite powerhouse Iran could take advantages of any gains by Bahrain's Shiites, who account for about 70 percent of the population.

"The pro-government gathering had many nonnative Bahrainis, including South Asians and Sunni Arabs from around the region. Shiite have long complained of policies giving Sunnis citizenship and jobs, including posts in security forces, to offset the Shiite majority."

Lots of activity in Bahrain, and it's hard to say what will happen. However, my money is on the Sunni government staying in place-- especially since Saudi Arabia takes such an interest in keeping Iranian expansionism in check. There might be some token reforms within the Bahraini government, but the main players will stay largely the same. There's no guarantees, of course.

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