Deteriorating security the biggest threat for Bahrain

Rob Sobhani’s May 23 Congress Blog post “Bahrain launches the post-oil boom” describes Bahrain as an invaluable U.S. ally with a progressive leader that must be engaged and protected to support U.S. foreign policy and regional stability. Regrettably, Sobhani fails to recognize that the biggest threat to stability in Bahrain, and thus U.S. interests in the region, is not Iran but an increasingly deteriorating security situation directly resulting from government suppression.

Since 2011, the government of Bahrain has conducted a campaign to silence dissent and suppress a popular protest movement. This crackdown continues with no respect for human rights, leading to the polarization of a formerly cohesive society and creating an unstable security situation. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters have increased in lethality and frequency, as the U.S. government has expanded the parts of Bahrain that are off-limits to service personnel and their families based with the U.S. Fifth Fleet.


Given that Bahrain is a close ally of the United States, the Obama administration must use its leverage to impress upon the Bahraini government the importance of taking concrete steps toward enacting substantive reform on the ground. Without U.S. pressure, there is a very real risk that tensions in Bahrain will lead to even further violence that could spread beyond its borders. This would leave Bahrain so unstable that the United States will have no choice but to remove military assets for their protection, thus damaging U.S. interests in the region.

The backdoor bilateral negotiations on which the Obama administration has relied have not worked. President Obama must have a frank conversation with King Hamad Al-Khalifa and make it plain that an unwillingness to participate in a legitimate dialogue while continuing to violate human rights is damaging bilateral relations and regional stability. As part of this conversation, the administration should make it clear that Manama’s inaction to find a resolution to the political crisis will force the U.S. to explore alternative basing options for the Fifth Fleet.

Sobhani ends his piece by calling on Washington to extend an invitation for Hamad to meet with Obama and members of the U.S. Congress to assist Hamad in his “jehad to innovate and lift his country out of its dependence on fossil fuels.” However, economic bilateral relations will become a moot point if the island nation continues its destabilizing trajectory toward violence and extremism.

Washington, D.C.


Decisions on water are best left to locals

Democracy works best when the people decide, the people in local communities. That’s what makes the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA), recently passed in both houses of Congress, such a breath of fresh air. Besides being a rare (and welcome) sign of bipartisan agreement by both parties and between Congress and the White House, it provides additional options and resources for communities to choose how best to solve their water infrastructure issues. 

The legislation is also a timely step forward as many communities face a crisis with pipes and systems that have far exceeded their expected life span. Investing in infrastructure, whether through traditional funding or public-private partnerships, is paramount to ensuring a reliable water supply, conserving resources and positioning our cities for economic growth. 

In The Hill’s May 27 article “Group: $12.3B water bill ‘opens door for privatization,’ ” Corporate Accountability International claims that public-private partnerships have “resulted in devastating results for the economy and people ... all while failing to invest in essential infrastructure.” Nothing could be further from the truth. More than 2,000 facilities from New York to California are operated in public-private partnership contract arrangements, allowing municipalities to maintain a critical role in the water services process while taking advantage of the extensive benefits that come with a private operator.

Communities across the nation are in the best position to decide what’s right for them to address these challenges, not some anti-private-lobbying group. In fact, a public-private partnership will likely deliver the best service and the most value in many areas — it already does in the places where such partnerships have been forged. The bill about to be signed into law by the president will allow even more cooperative, innovative efforts to get underway. Hopefully, this legislation marks an important milestone on the road to addressing our nation’s significant water infrastructure needs.       

From Michael Deane, executive director, National Association of Water Companies, Washington, D.C.


Roundup gets a bad rap

Tess Doesema’s June 3 Contributor’s blog post (“The fatal flaw of the EPA and the decline of the honeybee”) includes a one-sentence swing at the safety of Roundup agricultural herbicides that is tall on innuendo and short on the weight of evidence. Comprehensive toxicological studies repeated over the last 40 years have time and again demonstrated that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup branded agricultural herbicides, does not cause cancer, mutagenic effects, nervous system effects, immune system effects, endocrine disruption, birth defects or reproductive problems. This conclusion was reaffirmed earlier this year in a comprehensive health risk assessment drafted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment which evaluated hundreds of studies, both new toxicological studies and studies conducted previously.

From Tom Helscher, director, Corporate Affairs, Monsanto Co., Saint Louis, Mo.