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Did the Pentagon Help Strangle the Arab Spring?

December 13, 2011 

Nick Turse wrote a great article exposing U.S. military aid to repressive governments in Africa and the Middle East where some “Arab Spring” protests have been crushed by violence:

As the Arab Spring blossomed and President Obama hesitated about whether to speak out in favor of protesters seeking democratic change in the Greater Middle East, the Pentagon acted decisively.  It forged ever deeper ties with some of the most repressive regimes in the region, building up military bases and brokering weapons sales and transfers to despots from Bahrain to Yemen.

As state security forces across the region cracked down on democratic dissent, the Pentagon also repeatedly dispatched American troops on training missions to allied militaries there.  During more than 40 such operations with names like Eager Lion and Friendship Two that sometimes lasted for weeks or months at a time, they taught Middle Eastern security forces the finer points of counterinsurgency, small unit tactics, intelligence gathering, and information operations — skills crucial to defeating popular uprisings.

These recurrent joint-training exercises, seldom reported in the media and rarely mentioned outside the military, constitute the core of an elaborate, longstanding system that binds the Pentagon to the militaries of repressive regimes across the Middle East.  Although the Pentagon shrouds these exercises in secrecy, refusing to answer basic questions about their scale, scope, or cost, an investigation by TomDispatch reveals the outlines of a region-wide training program whose ambitions are large and wholly at odds with Washington’s professed aims of supporting democratic reforms in the Greater Middle East.

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This spring, as Operation African Lion proceeded and battered Moroccan protesters nursed their wounds, President Obama asserted that the “United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region” and supports basic human rights for citizens throughout the Greater Middle East.  “And these rights,” he added, “include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders — whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.”

The question remains, does the United States believe the same is true for those who live in Amman, Kuwait City, Rabat, or Riyahd?  And if so, why is the Pentagon strengthening the hands of repressive rulers in those capitals?

Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark

August 7, 2011 

One forgotten uprising of the ‘Arab Spring’ took place in tiny Bahrain.

I have posted articles on this site about the protests in Bahrain and why it matters.  Bahrain is in the backyard of Saudi Arabia. It is also the location of the U.S. 5th Fleet.  The U.S. and western countries turned a blind eye when the Bahraini ruling monarchy and gulf states violently crushed the peaceful protests.

Al Jazeera produced an excellent documentary “Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark” about the protests in Bahrain. (Warning: the images are graphic).

Where is the NATO and U.S. military support for these protesters?