Manama: America’s “schizophrenic” approach to the Middle East could result in many key Arab states deciding to align themselves more closely with Russia, Bahrain warned on Sunday.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, said Barack Obama’s administration would lose influence in the region if it persisted with a “transient and reactive” foreign policy.
There has been a sharp rise in tensions between Washington and several Arab states after last month’s controversial interim agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme. Citing Mr Obama’s handling of the recent crisis over Syria’s chemical weapons, which allowed Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to seize the initiative, Shaikh Salman said some states were reviewing their relations with America.
“The Russians have proved they are reliable friends,” said Shaikh Salman, referring to Putin’s diplomatic intervention to prevent Western military action against Bashar Al Assad.
“As a result, some states in the region have already started to look at developing more multilateral relations rather than just relying on Washington. America seems to suffer from schizophrenia when it deals with the Arab world.”
Shaikh Salman, 44, who serves at Bahrain’s first deputy prime minister, said America’s recent involvement in the region’s conflicts meant that many Arab states doubted whether they could rely on the West to protect their interests.
“The US cannot sit from afar making condescending judgments. It needs friends and partners to achieve its goals,” he said.
Bahrain is one of several Gulf states that were angered by the Obama administration’s decision to call for the removal of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, following widespread anti-government protests three years ago, even though Mubarak had been a staunch pro-Western ally for 30 years.
Shaikh Salman said: “The problem is that policy in America operates in two-year election cycles, and there is no long-term planning.”
In common with other Gulf states, Bahrain also expressed concerns about the recent interim agreement negotiated in Geneva last month, between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Britain and America used the annual Manama Dialogue regional security conference at the weekend, which is hosted by Bahrain and organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, to offer assurances that the Geneva deal will not affect their support for Arab states.
Shaikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s foreign minister, said Arab states did not require reassurances. Instead, he said the West “need to listen to us, because we know Iran well”.