Protesters storm Bahraini embassy in Baghdad in protest against US ‘deal of the century’

Security forces opened fire in the air to disperse the protesters. (AP)
Updated 28 June 2019

Protesters storm Bahraini embassy in Baghdad in protest against US ‘deal of the century’

BAGHDAD:  At least 54 people were reportedly arrested after dozens of Iraqi protesters stormed the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad on Thursday night to protest against Bahrain’s participation in the US-led economic “deal of the century” plan for Palestine.

Iraqi authorities deployed additional troops to disperse the demonstrators and secure the embassy, which sources said appeared to have been targeted by Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the most powerful pro-Iranian Shiite armed factions in Iraq.

The protesters burned US and Bahraini flags outside the embassy in Mansour, western Baghdad, before entering the inner courtyard, taking down the Bahraini flag and replacing it with a Palestinian flag. The gesture seemingly symbolized their rejection of US President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled economic plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Bahraini capital Manama this week hosted a two-day “Peace to Prosperity” workshop to discuss the plan, which was attended by Jared Kushner, Trump’s adviser. Palestinian authorities rejected the proposal, which does not address the two-state solution, and refused to participate in the workshop.

Although shots were heard ringing out in the vicinity of the embassy for about eight minutes, no casualties were immediately reported. Iraqi security forces in Baghdad were put on high alert and roads leading to the embassy were closed to prevent more protesters gathering there.

Iraqi Interior Minister Yassin Al-Yassiri went to the embassy in an attempt to “calm the situation” and meet the Bahraini ambassador. Security was heightened in nearby areas. Saad Maan, the official spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said Al-Yassari had stressed that the security of embassies and diplomatic missions is a red line that must not be crossed under any circumstances.

He also revealed that 54 people were arrested in connection with the attack and that the minister will appoint a committee to investigate the incident and the individuals responsible for ensuring the safety and security of the embassy and its staff.

In response to the incident, Bahrain recalled its ambassador for a consultation. The Iraqi government expressed its “deep regret” over what it described as “encroachment on the embassy building” and “acts of sabotage that violate the law and the authority of the state and the immunity of diplomatic missions.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s office issued a statement early on Friday that read: “The Iraqi government is serious in preventing the violation of the law and will never tolerate such acts, and affirms its absolute rejection of any action threatening diplomatic missions, their security and safety of their employees.”

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.