Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Qatar and Bahrain

by Elliott Abrams
August 26, 2011

My post yesterday about Qatar’s support for the crushing of popular demonstrations in Bahrain has occasioned a fair amount of angry comment (here and on Twitter). My point was that when Qatar supports the call for democracy and free elections in Libya but assists in the smashing of demonstrations in Bahrain it is pursuing a foreign policy detached from principle.

Has this been Qatar’s policy in Bahrain? First, Qatar sent troops to Bahrain as part of the GCC force organized to assist its government in ending the demonstrations.

Second, Al Jazeera has clearly been pulling its punches about events in Bahrain.

But some comments have protested that on the contrary Al Jazeera has covered the troubles in Bahrain and even done a whole program on it. True—in English only. Bahrain did protest the show, called “Shouting in the Dark,” but who is kidding whom here? When the owners of Al Jazeera–namely the royal family-decide that the protests in Bahrain are to be covered fairly by Al Jazeera English only, and slighted in Al Jazeera Arabic, they are doing a huge favor to the Bahraini authorities. Al Jazeera’s influence does not come from what it broadcasts in English.

So I continue to believe what I wrote yesterday: “Qatari diplomatic activity is designed to advance the interests of the tiny country and of its ruling family. Its adoption of the Libyan opposition, for example, is not based on any principle (such as liberty, democracy, or free elections), for the Qatari government and its TV station, Al Jazeera, have been notably silent about the crisis in Bahrain. There, they have backed the royal family and the Saudi-led GCC armed presence.” The only change I would make is to add that they have been silent in Arabic, where it counts.

Post a Comment 15 Comments

  • Posted by Umran

    And when has the foreign policy of any country been ultimately guided by anything other than realpolitik and self interest?

    Some just do a more consistent job of dressing up their foreign policy with warm and fuzzy words like freedom and democracy.

  • Posted by canadiansyrian

    how about Al jazeera`s coverage on Syria , why they ignored covering Syria`s revolution for a month ? why and who took the decision to start covering ?.

  • Posted by Will

    If media reporting omission is linked to state foreign policy, Abrams could have a lot of fun looking at American media patterns of coverage in the Middle East IN ENGLISH.

  • Posted by Matthew Royer

    And where is the American administration on Bahrain, Mr. Elliot Abrams?
    US was SILENT on Bahrain. I think you have some nerve criticizing al jazeera for pulling its punches while uttering no words for the Obama admin’s complacency in what went on there.

  • Posted by Lilly

    Good call, Elliott. “Shouting in the Dark” was a good start in English but where’s the hard-hitting follow-up?

  • Posted by freshteh

    You should see the case of Qatar in a broad prospect of its animosity with Saudi Arabia. For years Saudi called itself the guardian of Arabs and led the Arab political arena hand-in-hand with Egypt’s Mubarak. Now that Mubarak’s gone and Saudi king is at least 87 years old ( he can’t live forever!) Qatar feels that the era of traditional Arab powers has come to an end and now another Arab powers with money and gestures of democracy and loving humanity are needed to lead the Arab political scene for the new century and they see themselves in that role.But Bahrain was exactly Qatar’s Achilles heel and by losing two famous TV presenters who has protested Aljazeera’s coverage on Bahrain and Syria , they lost some of their credibility. With plans of those two presenters to have a new TV channel for all free Arab people Aljazeera will sooner or later lose some of its audience.

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    From Elliott Abrams:
    Just a brief reply to Matthew Royer here. I share the view that the US government has been far too quiet about Bahrain and have written that in blog posts over and over and over again. Next time try research before criticism.

  • Posted by jan z. volens

    Seen from Mr.Abrams former turf, Latin America: “It remains lucky for us while the USA and NATO remain occupied with the Near East, instead of concentrating on us in South America!” (from “Arco de Fronteiras”, the Blog of the former Director of Brazil’s combined intelligence services in the Amazon region, Col. ret. Gelio Fregapani).

  • Posted by A. Shiraz

    One finds it odd that only countries which were previously ex-Soviet allied are experiencing this “spring”. Libya, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen all have/had closer ties with the USSR at some point. Where is this “spring” in Saudia, UAE, Oman, Brunei, Jordan (right next to Syria and Egypt)? We are losing the few countries that wanted to be modern aren’t we ? This makes one very uncomfortable. Even if Qaddafi, Mubarak and others were dictators they were the most modern, the most benign of the dictators perhaps (the Syrian dictator is apparently a dentist, Qaddafi was once a poster child for the 60s). It is really sad that those who were most promising are falling so while much worse folk are not?

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    It’s possible that Qatar learned about wretched double standards from the Obama administration … or vice versa .

  • Posted by reza

    the funny thing is that algazeeba frequently uses terms such as dictatorship or dictatorial regims. since when qatar is a democratic regim?

  • Posted by Umran

    To prove my earlier point, double standards abounds…even in Britain:

    “Britain approved £1.4 million of arms licences to Bahrain, even after that country began brutally squashing internal dissent.”

    (from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/8735443/Libya-could-be-the-last-place-where-the-West-is-allowed-to-intervene.html)

    Will you be dedicating an article to criticising the double speak of the British government next, Mr Abrams?

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