Obama’s speech rapped for “limited vision”

May 22, 2011
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President Barack Obama should improve his understanding of the political situation in Bahrain and update his information about its political forces, the National Unity Rally has said.

The Rally, an umbrella for religious and political societies as well as thousands of independents, emerged as a strong force in February during the turmoil that hit Bahrain. It has since insisted that it is a major component in the political and social landscape and should not be overlooked.

In his speech on Thursday, Obama said that Bahrain’s government “must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.”

However, the Rally said that Obama should not see only the government and the opposition in the political arena.

“We have followed with great astonishment the US president’s speech on the Arab region and particularly about the situation in Bahrain,” the Rally said in a statement. “We are shocked and upset with the speech that has ignored all segments of the Bahraini society and focused only on the opposition that has been pushing for the establishment of a theocratic state ruled by religious men taking orders from high religious figures in Iran and Iraq. We reject this double-standard policy by the US which aims to deepen divisions and sectarian standoffs in the Bahraini society,” the statement said.

Any dialogue on the current situation and the future of Bahrain should include the National Unity Rally, it said.

“We are an essential element in the equation and must not be sidestepped. We mobilized 400,000 people at one rally and we have presented a list of reforms. The crown prince has called for reforms, but the opposition has rejected it by making tough pre-conditions in a bid to bring down the political regime and have a repeat of what happened in Iraq here in Bahrain, sparking a sectarian war in which both Sunnis and Shiites will be the victims,” the Rally said.

In February, the Rally, building on the impressive number of sympathizers, told the authorities that its supporters would no longer remain passive or accept to be overlooked and that no settlement of any political or social issue should occur without its participation.

“We now urge the US President to update his concept about the political forces, the political formula and the political situation in Bahrain. There are now three major elements in the political equation and the National Unity Rally is one of them. As such it is an indispensable partner in any dialogue,” the statement said.

Abdul Lateef Al Mahmood, the Rally chairman, in his Friday sermon charged that the US administration “supported the opposition and did not heed the reality on the ground.”

According to Al Mahmood, Obama was merely “continuing the policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush, on a new map for the Middle East that wanted to split several existing countries.”

“The US policy is keen on giving Israel more power over the Arab and Muslim states and on promoting local oppositions groups so that they serve US interests in the region,” he said.

On Thursday, Bahrain’s cabinet welcomed “the principles included in the speech delivered by US President Barack Obama”, saying that they “converged with its democratic orientations.”

However, the government said that “the national dialogue has been open since the launch of the reforms and the National Action Charter and that it will remain so.”

         

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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Career
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
Education
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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