The Obama administration is hosting Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa in Washington just as the Bahraini regime is vowing a harsher crackdown on anti-government protesters. Appearing with al-Khalifa at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to directly mention the repression of protests, referring only to Bahrain’s “internal issues.”
Hillary Clinton: “Bahrain is a valued ally of the United States. We partner on many important issues of mutual concern to each of our nations and to the regional and global concerns, as well. I’m looking forward to a chance to talk over with His Royal Highness a number of the issues both internally and externally that Bahrain is dealing with and have some better understanding of the ongoing efforts that the government of Bahrain is undertaking. So, again, Your Royal Highness, welcome to the United States.”
Clinton’s comments come one day after the Bahraini government vowed to escalate its crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. Speaking to Reuters, a Bahraini government spokesman said, “We are looking into the perpetrators and people who use print, broadcast and social media to encourage illegal protest and violence around the country. If applying the law means tougher action, then so be it.” The warning came days after the arrest of the prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. In a statement, Amnesty International declared Rajab a “prisoner of conscience” and called for his immediate release. Another prominent activist, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, has been on a hunger strike for three months protesting his life imprisonment. Bahrain is a key U.S. government ally, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.