Thursday, September 19, 2013

The US government bravely speaks about repression in Bahrain

From Bahrain correspondent:  "Did you see the latest state department briefing on Bahrain? It is infuriating.  So we've had this joke of a national dialogue going on for the past few months. It is supposedly between the opposition and pro-government organizations with the regime as an arbitrator. Noone was taking it seriously. I actually had forgotten about it. Now the regime decided to arrest AlWefaq's deputy head, Khalil Marzouq for inciting terrorist acts. He is going to be held for the next thirty days. So the opposition withdrew from the dialogue - makes sense since it would be very humorous to continue a dialogue when one of them gets arrested. The US's response? Criticizing the opposition for withdrawing from a dialogue that everyone knew was a joke and shouldn't even be taking place, and refusing to criticize the arrest of a senior member of a leading opposition group. The US strategy for dealing with Bahrain is quite clear: the goal is to keep the situation under control. So long as the opposition is taking part in some dialogue, it is under control. Withdrawing means that they are back on the streets. This is all reminding me about the joke peace talks between fateh and Israel. Basically, As a people, we are not allowed to resist, in any way - whether it is by protesting, or boycotting a sham dialogue that is not even with the regime because of an arrest. 

Here is the exchange:

QUESTION: I’d like to ask about the detention by the Bahraini Government --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- of Khalil Marzooq. He’s the – a senior official in the Al Wifaq --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- Al Wifaq opposition --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- party. And apparently, he was arrested for incitement on a speech he gave. But he’s someone who is actually in the national dialogue --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and was just wondering if you have any comment on that.
MS. HARF: Yep, a couple of points on that. Obviously, we’re following the case closely. We’ll be raising it with the Bahraini authorities as part of our discussion of recent political developments in Bahrain. I think the bigger context is important here, that we are disappointed that opposition groups have suspended their involvement in the national dialogue that you just mentioned. We believe that the national dialogue is an important step in a longer process that leads to meaningful reforms and that addresses the legitimate aspirations of all Bahrainis. So we’ll continue to encourage everyone to participate in it.
QUESTION: Okay. But how can you be --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- disappointed that they don’t believe that the Bahrainis are operating in good faith if they’re arresting people that they’re having a dialogue with?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything further on this specific case, but we – look, we know this national dialogue process is difficult, and nobody’s naive about that. I’m going to keep using that word now because you like to focus on it. But we are disappointed that opposition groups have suspended their involvement. We think it’s an important forum. We would hope that everybody would be part of that process.
QUESTION: Well, are you disappointed that members of the – that the Bahraini regime is arresting people that they’re actually supposed to be having a political dialogue with?
MS. HARF: We’ll be raising this case with the Bahraini authorities, as I just said, and I just don’t have anything further on this specific case.
QUESTION: Just to make it clear, you used the word “naive” twice before it ever came out of my lips, and I just want to – and I want to make sure of one thing --
MS. HARF: You want to go on the record with that.
QUESTION: Right, (inaudible).
QUESTION: On this – no, no, on Bahrain.
MS. HARF: On Bahrain.
QUESTION: Just to put a fine point on this --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- you think that the problems that are – or the lack of progress in the national dialogue is due to the opposition?
MS. HARF: I didn’t say that.
QUESTION: Well, that’s what I --
MS. HARF: That’s a sweeping statement.
QUESTION: I’m trying to find out what --
MS. HARF: Is there a question?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you think that the reason that the dialogue to date has yet not produced anything is the fault of the opposition?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to put blame on one side here. We believe that it’s an important process. We’re disappointed that the opposition groups have suspended their involvement at this time.
QUESTION: And you --
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to put blame here on where fault lies.
QUESTION: Okay. But you think --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- that they should go back?
MS. HARF: Yes.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Even though the Bahraini authorities have arrested this guy who’s the --
MS. HARF: We believe they should be a part of the process.
QUESTION: And do – you don’t --
QUESTION: How much do you --
QUESTION: Look, shouldn’t he be part of the process, not in jail?
MS. HARF: We don’t support any one person, obviously. I’m not going to speak further on his case. We believe that opposition groups should be part of the process.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, when --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- you say you’re going to be discussing it with his case, you said you would – I think you said you would be discussing --
MS. HARF: I did, yes, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- his case with the Bahrainis. Well, what will you tell them?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any preview of what that message will look like.
QUESTION: Have they not been already – has there not already been contact about this case?
MS. HARF: I don’t know if we’ve contacted them on this case specifically. I know we will be raising it. I just don’t know if we have. And I don’t have a preview for what that conversation will look like.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, it’s important to know whether you’re going to call on the Bahrainis to release this guy, or whether you think that this arrest was justified.
MS. HARF: I understand the question.
MS. HARF: If I have anything further about the message that we’ll be giving to the Bahraini Government --
MS. HARF: -- as part of this discussion, I’m happy to share it with you if I can.
QUESTION: But I think it’s kind of – I think the reason that you’re getting kind of surprised looks here is because the Bahrainis have arrested this guy --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and you seem to be – you’re upset with the opposition --
MS. HARF: I said --
QUESTION: -- not with the government.
MS. HARF: I said we’re going to be raising the case with the government, but we also --
QUESTION: I know, but you don’t --
MS. HARF: I took it back a step --
QUESTION: But you can’t say what it is that you’re going to tell the government. I mean, you could say --
MS. HARF: I’m not going to preview that for you.
QUESTION: Based – right, but based on --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- that answer and your not previewing it, you could go and say, “Hey, good job, well done, we think that was a really good move.”
MS. HARF: I would urge you not to make any assumptions --
MS. HARF: -- one way or the other about what we’re going to say.
QUESTION: Well, don’t let them --
QUESTION: But, I mean, why shouldn’t --
QUESTION: Don’t leave it to us to have an assumption.
MS. HARF: If I have --
QUESTION: Make it clear to the – to us --
MS. HARF: If I have anything further to share --
QUESTION: -- and also to the Bahraini Government --
MS. HARF: -- I will.
QUESTION: -- how you think this affects the process.
MS. HARF: If I have anything further --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: -- on that message, I will share it with you.
QUESTION: Marie, could you share with us the status of your engagement with the opposition and at what level? You --
MS. HARF: In Bahrain?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you on that. Let me take the question, Said, and I’ll get you an answer. I just don’t know what it is.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So could I ask a – I mean, you’re disappointed with the opposition withdrawing from the dialogue --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- what do the Bahraini authorities have to do to keep the dialogue going?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to lay out specific steps. Obviously, this is a dialogue that’s internal to Bahrain.
QUESTION: But you just said that the opposition has to return. That’s a specific step.
MS. HARF: We think that it’s an important process. I’m not going to lay out specific markers for the Bahraini Government to hit. We just think that people should be part of this process.
QUESTION: Well, just as a general rule, though, without --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- speaking to this particular case, do you think that political detentions in the middle of a national dialogue are helpful to the climate of a national dialogue?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to speak to this specific case in any way, shape, or form --
QUESTION: I’m not asking you to talk to this specific case.
MS. HARF: -- but it’s a case specifically about Bahrain and the national dialogue. Broadly speaking, I think we’ve made very clear our concerns with that issue around the world, but I don’t want to speak at all further to this specific case. I just don’t.
QUESTION: So you’re – basically, the Bahraini Government today, from this podium, gets a free pass?
MS. HARF: You can characterize it any way you want, Matt.
MS. HARF: I’m not characterizing it that way.
QUESTION: I don’t expect you to, but that’s unfortunately, or fortunately, whatever – I mean, that’s --
MS. HARF: We’re going to raise it with the government.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: That’s the impression that you have left on us and on the Bahraini Government and --
MS. HARF: We’re going to raise it with the Bahraini Government --
MS. HARF: -- and I’m going to leave it at that."