Robert Gates for President of Bahrain, Feltman of Beirut………..




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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived Friday on an unannounced visit to offer American support to the royal family and prod the king and the crown prince toward talks with protesters ……. Here in this tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, security forces firing what protesters said were rubber bullets and pro-government Sunni vigilantes wielding sticks and swords beat back a rump group of several hundred protesters who were among the tens of thousands of Shiite demonstrators who were planning to march toward a particularly sensitive area: the Royal Court in Riffa, the preferred residential neighborhood for the ruling family and the Sunni Muslim elite. Its manicured lawns and wide streets contrast sharply with the narrow alleyways and raw cinder-block houses where many of the majority Shiite Muslims live…….In his Friday sermon, Sheik Isa Qassim, the most senior Shiite cleric, said the king was falsely depicting the demand for basic rights as a rift between sects. “Our demands are political ones, and have nothing to do with demands for a sect or segment of society,” he said at Friday Prayer, “We are demanding democracy.” ……..

One protester, a teacher who identified himself only as Nabil, says he is not interested in any dialogue with the royal family. “Our grandfathers tried them in [the] 20s and 50s and 60s and 70s, we had a problem with them. And in 80s, 90s and now as well. They say, ‘OK, let’s sit at a table and see what you want.’ And we believe them every time. And every time they lie. So no trust for this family now,” said Nabil…….

“And we believe them every time. And every time they lie….” This is about right. This succinctly (succinctly: I have loved this term since graduate school days) tells the story of the people of Bahrain with their rulers. It is a tough problem for Mr. Gates to solve, which means it is an even tougher problem for Jeffrey Feltman to solve. Besides, Mr. Feltman is busy elsewhere: most Lebanese believe that he is already the shadow prime minister of Lebanon, no matter which side is ‘officially’ in power. Most Arabs believe that as well. Actually the daily al-Akhbar (Beirut), admittedly no friend of Mr. Feltman, claims that he is running the Hariri (the right-wing March 14) political operation.