Most folks in this country probably don’t know much about Bahrain. After all, it’s only about 293 square miles (a little over four times the size of the District) and, with a population of about 1.3 million (more than half of them immigrants), is only slightly larger than Dallas.
But it is strategically located in the Persian Gulf just off the coast of Saudi Arabia and 150 miles across the gulf from Iran. The Navy’s Fifth Fleet is headquartered there and it lets the United States use two major airfields. Then there’s the $1.4 billion in military sales to the kingdom each year. On the other hand, there are the violent demonstrations by majority Shiites against the ruling Sunni monarchy for the last three years.
Balancing human rights concerns and the need for military cooperation with the government makes for a very tricky diplomatic task.
So when Abdullatif al-Mahmood, head of the National Unity Assembly (a political group that’s part of a Sunni-oriented pro-government political federation) demands the “immediate” recall of U.S. Ambassador Tom Krajeski, Gulf Daily News reported Monday, attention perforce must be paid. And when the demand results from a quite negative State inspector general’s report last week, even more attention might be forthcoming.
The report dinged Krajeski for, among other things, “his lack of access to some key government officials, his poor media image, and the lack of an effective strategy to address these issues have created friction with principal officials in Washington.” And there’s his “disdain for planning.”
State Department spokesman Marie Harf on Friday at a briefing said department officials were “reviewing the report” and would respond formally to the IG. She said State agreed “with some of the recommendations” in the report and “we disagree with others.” She also praised Krajeski, a 35-year foreign service veteran and former ambassador to Yemen, as “qualified, highly capable,.” “We have full confidence in his leadership,” Harf said.
In a response to our inquiry regarding the National Unity Assembly’s demand for a recall, Harf, in an e-mail, repeated the department’s “full confidence in Ambassador Krajeski” and added, “we don’t expect that to change at all.”
So sounds like no recall.