Arab Spring: An interview with Bahrain's foreign minister.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
June 9 2011 4:00 PM

"The Crackdown Was Not a Mistake"

An interview with Bahrain's foreign minister.

(Continued from Page 2)

L.W.: What about the American diplomat who was forced to leave your country because of anti-Semitism? How could you allow that to happen? They said his photo was published on a government website.

It wasn't on a government website.

L.W.: Why didn't the government stop it?

It did stop it. Newspapers were gagged from talking about the issue. But the websites—how can it be stopped? It was a terrible situation. I wonder why would they attack someone for being Jewish. We have a Jewish ambassador here.

L.W.: What about the doctors who were fired?

I believe that the majority of doctors in Bahrain have treated protesters. But there is a group of doctors—33 doctors and nurses—who took control of a hospital, took possession of firearms, and turned the hospital into a no-go area, and two of them are charged with serious crimes. Treating protesters, going to the roundabout [where protesters gathered]—that is not a crime. Nobody is being charged with that.

L.W.: Do you think that having Saudi and UAE forces in your country promotes stability or exacerbates tensions?

The portrayal that they came into the country to suppress the demonstrations did not help give the right portrait of them. They didn't come into contact with people—they came straight to the bases to protect vital installations against outside threats.

L.W.: Do you think the troops should go now?

The troops are there against foreign threats. We received many threats from Iran.

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L.W.: How do the Saudis feel about the efforts of the crown prince? Do they want a tougher policy?

The Saudis want a calmer, happier Bahrain. They are very supportive of any effort to bring Shiites and Sunnis together.

L.W.: There is a charge that your government tries to bring Sunnis from other countries and give them citizenship so you increase the number of Sunnis.

There are Bahrainis over the last three or four decades who went to the rest of the Gulf looking for a better life.

L.W.: Isn't there an argument about naturalization?

We don't have a policy of naturalizing people who are Sunnis in order to balance the Shiites. It so happened that a lot of the people who left Bahrain were Sunnis because a lot of our surrounding area are Sunni countries and they would [be] hire[d] because they are Sunnis.

L.W.: What do you think is going to happen in Syria?

 The Arab Spring is bringing winds of change. It started in Tunisia, but it was Egypt that made it an Arab Spring. And it's everywhere. It's not necessarily something bad. ... We are a part of the Arab Spring, but we wanted to make sure that this Arab Spring goes in favor of the people and is not hijacked.

Lally Weymouth is a senior associate editor of the Washington Post.