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The Bahrain barometer

A thousand Saudi troops march into Bahrain and this intrusion into the sovereignty of another nation is met by a deafening silence in the Western media. Imagine what the reaction would have been if a thousand Syrian troops had marched into neighbouring Lebanon at the first sign of trouble to protect its government against demonstrators and had then started firing into the crowds that were protesting. It is inconceivable that Saudi force would have been deployed in this way without the consent of the US, and it has been reported that Hilary Clinton supported the move. Obama then called for restraint which enabled the US to appear to side both ways, which is becoming a regular stance of the US over turbulence in the Middle East.

The whole handling of this crisis continues to be driven by the US perception of where its interests lie, not by its rhetorical championing of democracy. That is what is causing the US flip-flopping over support for Mubarak, then over a Libyan no-fly zone, and now over armed suppression of peaceful protests in Bahrain. What makes the hypocrisy of the US position doubly ironic is that in each case the protesters have made it unambigously clear that they were not pushed by the Muslim Brotherhood or al Qaeda or any other Islamic fundamentalist or terrorist organisation, but solely and exclusively by the demand for democratic political reform.

Indeed one sometimes thinks that if al Qaeda did not already exist as the ultimate bogeyman, the US and all the Arab dictators would have had to have invented it. It is the classic mytholoogy to attract US backing. Both Mubarak and Gadaffi (in his rambling, incoherent manner) used it, and it undoubtedly influenced Western counsels in the early stages even though there was patently not a shred of evidence to support it. It was such a blatant voodoo stick with the Americans that Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration even insisted that the justification for attacking Iraq was that al Qaeda was in cahoots with Saddam Hussein when in fact they were swoen enemies.

What the extended Middle East crisis has shown is that America will put up with brutal dictatorships, but what it will not tolerate is independence, autonomy and self-determination where this conflicts with their overriding interests in oil.

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