American diplomats under fire in Bahrain
- By Habib Toumi, Bureau chief
Two Islamist blocs in Bahrain’s parliament have upped the pressure on the foreign ministry to seek the replacement of Thomas Krajeski, the US ambassador in Manama. Al Asala, the exclusive expression of Salafism, and the Islamic Menbar, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, also required the foreign minister to declare Michael Posner, US Assistant Secretary of State for Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, a persona non-grata in Bahrain.
A third parliamentary group, the Bahrain Bloc, had a less aggressive position and insisted on the significance of relations and cooperation with the US, but insisted that the ambassador should not interfere in Bahrain’s affairs.
The blocs charged that Krajeski, appointed as ambassador one year ago, has transgressed his diplomatic status and was interfering blatantly in Bahrain’s domestic affairs. They called the foreign ministry to send a complaint to the US “to put an end to all kinds of interference in the country.”
Posner, who early this month made his fifth visit to the kingdom in 18 months and met “senior government officials, lawyers, journalists, medical professionals, human rights advocates, and members of several political societies,” was also accused by MPs of interfering in Bahrain’s internal affairs. The lawmakers claimed he had no right to criticize the verdicts issued by a Bahraini court this month against medical and paramedical staff.
MP Abdul Halim Murad, representing Al Asala, told the media that Krajeski “supported Al Wefaq and attacked Bahrain publicly in the media.”
“He is demanding the empowerment of Al Wefaq under the guise of democracy and human rights,” the lawmaker said. “The ambassador has since his appointment been particularly active in putting pressure on Bahrain and on threatening and blackmailing the country. His meetings with the opposition do not stop and the US interference in our affairs has reached unprecedented levels,” he said.
The MP criticised the foreign ministry for “allowing the ambassador to move freely in the country and meet whomever he wanted without restrictions or conditions.”
In a statement released after the lawmakers’ press conference, the foreign ministry said that it “appreciates the importance of the role of foreign missions in strengthening friendly relations and the development of bilateral economic, cultural and scientific ties between their countries and the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
However, it added that “if a diplomat acts in a manner inconsistent with his duties, the competent authorities will not hesitate to take the appropriate measures, including meeting him to clarify all matters and to express official positions on statements he may have issued in a manner that breaches national laws and international conventions related to his work.”
The ministry said that King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa’s speech on June 24 stressed that Bahrainis did not need foreign mediation to address their issues.
Earlier this week, Krajeski said that he frequently met political leaders “only to understand the political landscape of Bahrain.”
“I met Shaikh Abdul Lateef Al Mahmood from the National Unity Assembly and Shaikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society,” he told the Gulf Daily News. “I also met frequently and openly officials in the government to discuss these issues, among others. I think it is absolutely a legitimate activity for a US diplomat and actually a responsibility and requirement that American diplomats understand the full picture in Bahrain. I require my political officers out on the street meeting and talking to people. The red line we will not cross is (meeting) anyone who espouses violence and either commits or calls for the violent overthrow of this or any other government,” he said.
Krajeski was the Senior Vice President of the National Defense University (NDU) from 2009-2011. He served at the US Embassy in Baghdad as the Senior Advisor to the Ambassador on Northern Iraq Affairs in 2008-09.
He was ambassador to Yemen (2004 – 2007) and Director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs (Iran and Iraq) in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. In 2003, he served as a political advisor to Ambassador L. Paul Bremer’s at The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad.
He has served also in Nepal, India, Poland, Egypt, and the UAE. His other Washington assignments include the India Desk and the Operations Centre, his official biography said.