Friday, March 18, 2011

'US losing allies in ME, North Africa'

Security forces suppressing peaceful Bahraini protesters

Source: Press TV

The situation in the Middle East and North Africa has cost the United States the loss of important strategic partners in the region due to the ongoing unrests.

The following is a rush transcription of Press TV's interview with author and political analyst Kevin Ovenden regarding the stance the US has adopted on the intensifying Bahraini uprising.

Press TV: Isn't double foreign military intervention illegal under the international law, stated by the UN Charter as [it is] opposed to what these Persian Gulf countries are saying, under their charter that this is legal in order to protect another country's safety?

Ovenden: I think indeed, it is illegal for the reasons you gave. But the reasons given by the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) are utterly hypocritical. Their main reason is the justifications to say that they have been invited in by the Bahraini Royal family. The problem with that is that if all those rulers have lost their legitimacy and support amongst the people, they are in no position to make such an offer. The second problem is we have heard this very often throughout history that greater foreign forces claim that they have been invited to a country. For example, the British said that they were invited into Egypt in the late 19th country, but now they have stayed for nearly a century looting the country. I think there are serious questions about the legality but leaving legality to one side, morally, it is completely unacceptable. This is simply going to inflame the situation in Bahrain and also throughout the Persian Gulf region.

Press TV: There has been reports indicating that the US and Saudi Arabia are at odds. Could it possibly be true? If we look at what the US has done for its long-time ally Hosni Mubarak, then could it be that they are at odds, while they should be approached, because they should approach the situation in Bahrain from the Saudi side?

Ovenden: One thing that they are certainly not at odds over, is the deep-seated, long term strategic interest that is to preserve at least the structure in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East and the Arab region to ensure the US supervises and controls the oil price which is suitable to western powers. Also to ensure the continued existence and expansion, to let many American policy makers, off the stage of Israel. So they are not at odds in longer term interest. But I do believe that the important divergences are taking place between the United State and its historic allies throughout the region. In this case, Saudi Arabia and that is a product of the declining prestige, power and influence of the United States throughout the region.

For many decades the United States was able to organize a system of alliances inside the region which depended upon authoritarian regimes and these were highly successful for many decades, but that is now breaking down. It is broken down in Tunisia, Egypt and even prior to that we saw the limitations on American power, demonstrated by the invasion and occupation of Iraq and continuing to be demonstrated by the fool-hardy and murderous occupation of Afghanistan. In their circumstances, senior and junior partners who may have had quiet disagreements previously, could have more public disagreements. I believe that is what is happening now. The United States would like there to be a very well-controlled and highly limited reform, not for the sake of reform but in order to stabilize the situation. The Saudis are saying that our system is such any reform, risks being scrubbed away and that is the difference.

Press TV: You made a very interesting distinction between the international community, [saying] that there are two of them really. With that definition, I want to ask, what would be the consequences if more Bahraini blood is shed as we have seen in the past 24 to 48 hours? What threshold would have to be passed before the US and its allies and the UN, if that … the international community, need to react for the protesters?

Ovenden: Well the distinction I have always drawn between the genuine international community, [which is] the community of free and peace loving people around the world, so that is the majority of people in the world and the pseudo fake international community of western states, contributed by the United States and its allies in the European Union. I think the people would be increasingly moved by the suffering in Bahrain. There are always all of these attempts to say this is a kind of a sectarian conflict and so on. I have to tell you that in western public opinion, shown by the pole in the United State, people are simply going to see large numbers of peaceful innocent people being gunned down by Bahraini, Saudi and Emirati forces and that is going to have a deep effect on western public opinion which is already sympathetic in its majority to the Arab revolutionary process. If they want to shift the government, I think it would be much greater, because the reason the United State would not shift or not put a red light to this escapade, is because to do so it would be fundamentally threatened to its interest.

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