Not so long ago Bahrain was considered one of the more liberal Arab states. No longer.
The situation in Bahrain is deteriorating further, despite occasional government claims that things are stable and even improving. The most recent proof is the Bahraini treatment of the human rights officer at the U.S. Embassy, Ludovic Hood, who is being forced to leave the country after a vicious campaign against him. The story is told in a recent Miami Herald item entitled “U.S. Yanks Diplomat From Bahrain After He’s Threatened.” The U.S. diplomat was the target of anti-Semitic slurs and his address was published in a web site tied to the Bahraini government, a sure effort to intimidate.
The Miami Herald story ends this way: “In his final message to his friends in Bahrain, Hood apologized that he had had to assume a low profile in his final weeks and couldn’t say goodbye. In his message, he sounded like a man ordered home on short notice. ‘Hello,’ he wrote. ‘I am leaving Bahrain today and moving back to Washington. I will start my new assignment at the State Department in June. I am sorry I was not able to say goodbye properly. Given recent developments affecting the Embassy, it was prudent for me to keep a low profile during my final weeks in Bahrain.'”
The State Department has said little about the incident, but it is a mark of how bilateral relations have soured and should get more attention. This intimidation of an American official should be forcefully protested and condemned by the United States. It is the kind of incident that should have us thinking out loud about the future of the Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain.