- After months of ruling Al Khalifa family crackdowns against
nonviolent protesters, political opponents, human rights activists, medical
professionals, independent journalists, and others wanting democratic change,
reports suggest Washington may move its Fifth Fleet elsewhere.
- According to the Australian and London Times, "Sources
in Washington and the Gulf confirm (a) growing consensus" around the
idea of relocating away from Bahrain because of unease over violence and
- On July 21, Hugh Tomlinson said:
- "Politicians in Washington are concerned the navy's
continued presence a few kilometres from the centre of the capital Manama
lends tacit support to Bahrain's suppression of the opposition, amid allegations
of systematic human rights abuses."
- Other concerns are that violence and instability may
compromise base security. According to one source:
- "There was talk on Capitol Hill about moving the
fleet within days of the protests breaking out, and that increased in March
and April as people realized that what was happening in Bahrain ran counter
to our interests."
- In mid-March, however, Obama backed Saudi troops invading
Bahrain guns blazing, attacking peaceful protesters, arresting opposition
leaders and activists, occupying the country, denying wounded men and women
medical treatment, and enforcing Al Khalifa family imposed martial law.
- Earlier, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Bahraini human
rights "deteriorated sharply in the latter half of 2010" with
around 250 government critics detained and tortured, including 25 prominent
activists. In addition, opposition publications and web sites were shut
down, after months of street protests.
- Moreover, a February 2010 HRW report concluded that from
2007 - 2009, authorities tortured and abused security suspects during interrogations.
Officials denied the findings, but conducted no criminal investigations
nor ordered disciplinary measures against alleged perpetrators.
- Judicial abuses also occurred. On March 28, 2010 for
example, an appellate court convicted 19 men for murdering a security officer,
overturning an October 2009 lower court acquittal. It found no evidence
linking them to the crimes other than coerced confessions.
- Other serious human rights abuses were also reported,
including numerous arrests, detentions and torture of human rights activists.
- Because of close US ties to Bahrain's regime and other
regional despots, it's unsurprising that a new Zogby International Arab
American Institute poll showed America and Obama scored poorly in five
out of six countries surveyed over issues of interfering in the Arab world.
- In fact, Obama's low approval rating surpasses George
Bush's worst level. In Egypt, it's 5%, 10% in Jordan, 12% in the United
Arab Emirates (UAE), 12% in Morocco, and 33% in Saudi Arabia.
- Respondents call Israel's continued occupation of Palestine
the greatest "obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East."
America's interference in the Arab world ranked second, Obama's war on
Libya reinforcing that view.
- Possible Alternative Fifth Fleet Locations
- Alternate ones include the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
or Qatar, though neither has the capacity to handle 40 ships and 30,000
personnel, so moving there remains years away.
- Sources say the UAE is most likely as the navy already
stations its aircraft carriers at Jebel Ali, Dubai's main port, and maintains
an Al Dhafra air base.
- Washington also has its forward CENTCOM headquarters
in Qatar at its Al Udeid air base, 45 km from Doha, the capital. In addition,
it pre-positioned large equipment supplies at Sayliyah army base.
- Moreover, a new port being built outside Doha has been
expanded to include a naval base, adjoining the commercial facility. However,
local sources say it's mainly for Qatar's navy, though plans could easily
- However, any move from Bahrain would be costly, time
consuming, and logistically hard because of the Fifth Fleet's size. Nonetheless,
political realities may force a change. At the same time, Bahrain will
pay a price if it happens. The fleet's been there for decades, using its
port since the 1940s with a larger presence since the 1970s, expanded in
the early 1990s.
- It's located in the heart of the Persian Gulf near the
Strait of Hormuz through which about 40% of the world's oil flows.
- On March 16, the World Tribune headlined, "Sources:
Fifth Fleet abandons base in Bahrain; Navy denies evacuation underway,"
- "The US Navy has begun to vacate its facilities
in Bahrain, diplomatic sources said," despite CENTCOM's denial. If
reports were accurate, many personnel "were transfered to Oman, where
a naval exercise was taking place."
- The Fifth Fleet Public Affairs Office said although departures
of family members and "non-essential civilian personnel living in
Bahrain" were authorized, operations "at US Fifth Fleet and NSA
Bahrain remain normal, and US service members and family members are not
- However, unidentified sources said Washington wrote off
Bahrain, believing the Al Khalifa may collapse. Whether or not it's true
- What is known is Bahrain's reputation as "a good
place to do business" is fractured. Its economy has suffered, and
bond rating lowered from A3 (upper medium grade) to BAA1 (lower medium
grade junk status).
- Moreover, many Western businesses relocated large numbers
of staff over concerns about the country's stability. In addition, unidentified
US sources believe the once valued Al Khalifa monarchy is now more a liability.
Daily protests met by violent crackdowns reinforce that view.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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