U.S. Government Reacts to Protest Movements
Libyan Protestors. Photo courtesy Al-Jazeera.
Following on the heels of the Egyptian democracy movement, protest movements in Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen have become increasingly emboldened in their fury towards their longtime rulers. But the entrenched regimes in the three nations have struck back with increasing force and brutality. The Wall Street Journal reports that the daily, deadly violence between security forces and government supporters in all three countries is suggesting that the two-month wave of unrest has moved into unstable new territory as the United States and other nations scramble to keep up with the momentum.
President Barack Obama on Friday said that the United States “condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protestors” and Admiral Mike Mullen is set to begin a week-long Middle East trip. Mullen arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. “It's stunning to me that it's moved so quickly,” Mullen told reporters aboard his aircraft shortly before landing. “We've talked about the underlying issues for a long time, but it's the speed with which this is happening. … Everybody's working hard to get ahead of it.”
Meanwhile, Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate State/Foreign Ops appropriations subcommittee has asked State officials to “identify the equipment and units involved in the [Bahraini] attacks,” to determine whether Bahraini security forces may have misused U.S. military aid in its overnight crackdown on Bahraini protesters in Manama. The so-called Leahy Law (.pdf) – which requires the cut-off of U.S. military aid to forces determined to have perpetrated human rights abuses — “does apply to Bahrain,” since “the U.S. Government provides support to the [Bahraini] Army,” Leahy spokesman David Carle said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton briefed the Senate on Thursday on the unstable situation brewing throughout the region. “The United States strongly opposes the use of violence and strongly supports reform that moves toward democratic institution building and economic openness,” she later stated to reporters before heading back to the State Department to monitor the conflict.
The Libyan bloodshed appeared to be the worst in the Middle East on a day that also saw troops fire on pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain and intense confrontations pitting protesters against security forces and government loyalists in Yemen.
Across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen, riot police used tear gas and batons to break up a protest by several thousand anti-government demonstrators in Djibouti, a city-state of 750,000 people in the Horn of Africa that hosts the only U.S. military base in Africa.
Deaths have been measured in the hundreds and seem to be poised to continue to rise as all sides refuse to back down.