By Brian Clark
Socialist Action has constantly pointed out that US administration claims that its policy is to support democracy in the Middle East is a straightforward lie and characteristic of imperialist hypocrisy. Of interest, therefore, is that the Wall Street Journal, the most authoritative journal of US business, has now carried a long detailed front page analysis of US attempts to suppress democracy when confronted with the uprisings in the Arab countries.
Naturally the purpose of the Wall Street Journal in carrying this analysis is the exact opposite of Socialist Action and the international and Arab left. Its aim is to reassure Arab ruling classes, above all the Saudi dictatorship, that they will receive the backing of the US government in suppressing democracy. Its language is itself full of hypocrisy but the detailed, blow by blow, account of how the US is collaborating with the corrupt Arab Gulf dictatorship, which is clearly based on access to high US administration sources, is highly revealing.
It reveals that the highest circles of the US administration are working on a day by day basis with the Arab Gulf dictators and that the US is actively seeking the overthrow of the Gaddafi government in Libya. The full article appeared on 5 March under the title ‘US wavers on “regime change”’ and can be read here. Key extracts are below.
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‘After weeks of internal debate on how to respond to uprisings in the Arab world, the Obama administration is settling on a Middle East strategy: help keep longtime allies who are willing to reform in power, even if that means the full democratic demands of their newly emboldened citizens might have to wait… the U.S. is urging protesters from Bahrain to Morocco to work with existing rulers toward what some officials and diplomats are now calling “regime alteration.”
‘The approach has emerged amid furious lobbying of the administration by Arab governments, who were alarmed that President Barack Obama had abandoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and worried that, if the U.S. did the same to the beleaguered king of Bahrain, a chain of revolts could sweep them from power, too, and further upend the region’s stability… in Bahrain, the U.S. decision to throw a lifeline to the ruling family came after sharp criticism of its handling of protests there…
‘A pivotal moment came in late February, in the tense hours after Mr. Obama publicly berated King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa for cracking down violently on anti-government demonstrators in Bahrain’s capital. Envoys for the king and his Arab allies shuttled from the Pentagon to the State Department and the White House with a carefully coordinated message.
‘If the Obama administration did not reverse course and stand squarely behind the monarchy, they warned, Bahrain’s government could fall, costing America a critical ally… “We need the full support of the United States,” a top Bahraini diplomat beseeched the Americans, including Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, Assistant Secretary of State Jeffery Feltman, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, and other top policy makers.
‘Arab diplomats believe the push worked… Israel was also making its voice heard. As Mr. Mubarak’s grip on power slipped away in Egypt, Israeli officials lobbied Washington to move cautiously and reassure Mideast allies that they were not being abandoned. Israeli leaders have made clear that they fear extremist forces could try to exploit new-found freedoms and undercut Israel’s security, diplomats said.
‘“Starting with Bahrain, the administration has moved a few notches toward emphasizing stability over majority rule,” said a U.S. official. “Everybody realized that Bahrain was just too important to fail.”
‘An exception to the policy of regime alteration is Libya, a longtime U.S. adversary partially rehabilitated by the Bush administration after Tripoli agreed to give up its nuclear program. Mr. Obama’s initial reaction was muted, but he later criticized Col. Moammar Gadhafi for committing acts of violence against his own people and called for the dictator to step aside. Critics say the response has been too slow and that military action is needed.
‘The emerging approach could help slow the pace of upheaval… The U.S. is trying a Bahrain-like formula in Morocco, supporting King Mohammed VI, and in Yemen, whose weak central government has been headed by autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh for nearly 33 years…
‘The lobbying push on behalf of Bahrain was led by the Gulf Cooperation Council. In addition to Bahrain, the council includes the Persian Gulf states of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates…The Arab diplomats found a particularly receptive ear in the Pentagon… Those concerns were shared by Israel and several key Arab allies…
‘The protest movement in Bahrain began gathering in intensity on Feb. 14, after police killed a protester and injured 25 more. Over the following days, six more demonstrators were killed and more than 200 injured, as reports circulated that the Bahraini government was moving in military equipment to disperse the protestors.
‘At an emergency meeting in Manama, the capital city, on Feb. 17, leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council backed Bahrain’s response to the protests… The next day, however, the Bahraini army fired on protesters again. In a call to the king, Mr. Obama condemned the violence used against “peaceful protesters,” and urged the king to direct his security forces to punish those responsible for the bloodshed, according to the White House.
‘Arab diplomats reacted with alarm… On Feb. 20, as two Bahraini diplomats made their case to top policy makers in Washington, Adm. Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman, arrived in Saudi Arabia as part of a week-long visit to Arab allies.
‘On the top of the agenda of his Arab counterparts: Bahrain. Adm. Mullen was straightforward about his intentions to reassure the Saudis and other Arab allies that the U.S. would live up to its security commitments, and remained a friend…
‘On Sunday, Feb. 27, the White House threw its support behind King Khalifa. The same day, William Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs, delivered a similar message to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, another key Arab ally facing unrest, calling the North African country “a model of economic, social, and political reform.”’