In an interview with Press TV, Jennifer Loewenstein, Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, explains the US reluctance to condemn the atrocities committed in Bahrain and why it accuses Iran of involvement in Bahrain uprising.
Press TV: There are reports that there was deal between the US President Barack Obama's administration and Saudi Arabia that the Saudis invade Bahrain and in return the US takes out Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Also, two diplomatic sources at the UN have confirmed that Washington gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain in exchange for a "yes" vote by the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya --the main rationale that led to United Nations Security Council resolution 1973. Can you elaborate on that news?
Loewenstein: Of course I don't have any inside information on that but when I heard the news, my first thought was that the US had just given the green light to the Saudis to go into Bahrain and in fact I believe [the US Defense Secretary] Robert Gates was there the day before the invasion. I cannot speak from knowing internal records but it looks very suspicious to me. Bahrain and Libya both are of interest to the US despite what Obama and his administration are saying. To think that we are just trying to help settle the unrest in the region and we would like to see democracy and freedom in both places is completely naïve. The truth is we want the Bahraini monarchy to stay in power. I do believe the US has thrown a lot of support behind the rebels in Libya but it has to do a lot with the history of Libya and the US and the oil corporations there.
Press TV: The White House has done everything it can to make sure the Bahrain drama is buried by US media: Why doesn't the UN approved R2P --the "Responsibility to Protect", not apply to people in Bahrain?
Loewenstein: We are hearing nothing basically about Bahrain anymore. Everything coming to us in the US is about Libya, about Yemen, about ongoing development in Egypt but as far as Bahrain in concerned, it has been burned. When it was in the news, there was an attempt to make this into a Sunni-Shia split and to blame Iran, saying that it was Iran's fault and it was trying to stir up dissent among Bahrain's Shia population and that was why it was necessary to send in Saudi troops. This is very a dangerous game they are doing, if this is what they are actually doing. I think it is in nobody's interest to have any kind of regional tension between the Saudi Arabia and Iran and it would not surprise me in the least to find out that Saudi Arabia and the US are trying to provoke Iran. They have an excuse to have to go to destroy economic and political infrastructure.
Press TV: The Persian Gulf Arab countries have accused Iran of interference. The accusations came while Saudi, Kuwaiti and UAE troops are in Bahrain to put down the popular uprising. Even the US has said Iran has not interfered, neither in Bahrain not any other uprising that has taken place across the Arab world. But do the accusations erase the fact that unarmed protesters are subject to human rights violations?
Loewenstein: We have to remember that last fall the Saudis received an unprecedented 60 billion dollars in military hardware from the US. It doesn't need that; there is no reason for that. It is probably nothing more than recycled petro-dollars and it sustains military industrial complex between the US and Saudi Arabia that has been present since just after the WWII. I have a very bad feeling about this, I am sure the Bahraini uprising is not over. The people demonstrating in Bahrain are both Shia and Sunni together against the repressive monarchy who would really like to see some kind of reform possible without this turning into full-scale regional and global war.
Press TV: Some analysts content that democracy and human rights stop at the border of the US and other Western countries and do not expend to the countries in the Middle East where all the atrocities are committed under their watch. What is your opinion on that?
Loewenstein: I have to disagree on that point and that is the US and other Western countries care about human rights up until their own borders' end. We have seen enough trouble just in my home state of Wisconsin this past winter with a regime in power in the state that has done more to destroy civil liberty and rights of workers, unions and other hard working people... We have to tend to our problems here at home as well and be a little bit less hypocritical when we are going overseas talking other nations and telling them how to rule their countries.
I agree that this was not a sectarian struggle initially but if the Caliphate monarchy wanted to institute a few reforms it could do so easily, I don't see what the problem is. What I see is very big national security policy issues on the table with the US and with Saudi Arabia and I think it should not be forgotten that the Saudi Shia population is in the east and sits on the oil in Saudi Arabia and has been fiercely discriminated against by Saudi Arabia and this could in fact lead to regional instability between the Saudi Arabia and Iran. So on the one hand, Iran does have an obligation in a way to speak for the Shia people and on the other hand it wouldn't have to if the Shia population in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were being treated fairly and with the kind of respect and human dignity that we so often say is part of our legacy.