- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2013

S. Rob Sobhani’s piece on Bahrain (“Standing steadfast with Bahrain,” Commentary, May 20) once again draws attention to a vitally important political conflict in a nation that has been a close U.S. ally for the past six decades. Mr. Sobhani’s call for renewed U.S. commitment to the kingdom deserves applause, as does his warning about an Iran-inspired campaign to provoke further unrest on the island.

Yet what Mr. Sobhani fails to disclose (with the small exception of citing the need for gradual economic and political reforms) is Bahrain’s troubling record in the realm of human rights over its response to the country’s pro-democracy movement.

Bahrain may be a vital U.S. ally in a strategically critical part of the world, but this does not hide the fact that its crackdown on political activists over the past two years is a hugely concerning development that Washington must face. Firmly standing by King Hamad “100 percent,” as Mr. Sobhani suggests, would in fact send a wrong message by inhibiting the very reforms that Bahrain needs to make in order to remain a productive player in the Persian Gulf.

According to various human rights organizations and the State Department’s own human rights report, Bahrain continues to arrest and detain activists on the basis of their political beliefs. The al-Khalifa royal family has canceled the United Nation’s top official on torture for the second time in two years. Rumors of prisoners signing confessions under physical duress (including torture) still lurk behind Bahrain’s professed commitment to accountability and progressive governance.

If Washington truly wants to support the monarchy, protect its own interests and uphold its own values, the Obama administration needs to take a more activist stance by pressing the Bahraini government, both publicly and privately, to respect the rights of all its citizens. The cost of not doing so would be a more feeble U.S. ally and an opportunity for Iran to make further inroads in the kingdom.

DANIEL R. DEPETRIS

Sag Harbor, N.Y.