Experts Call on Obama to Promote Bahrain Reform During Visit to Saudi Arabia

On March 10, 2014, the Project on Middle East Democracy sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to discuss the political crisis in Bahrain during his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia. The bipartisan letter, signed by 27 former government officials, regional experts, and security specialists, urged the Saudi leadership to play a more productive role in resolving the ongoing conflict by promoting genuine political reform in Bahrain.

“For years, Saudi officials have consistently encouraged the Bahraini regime to respond to calls for reform with brutal repression,” said Stephen McInerney, Executive Director of the Project on Middle East Democracy. “This approach has only led to violence and increased instability in the country.”

During the 2011 protests that spread across the Middle East and North Africa, Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain to reinforce a ruling regime that cracked down on peaceful protests. More than 100 Bahrainis have died and thousands have been arrested over the past three years. Violence against security forces has recently escalated, and the country is becoming more unstable.

“The United States and Saudi Arabia share an interest in Bahrain’s stability,” said McInerney. “President Obama must seize the opportunity of this visit to make clear to the Saudis that the only real way to resolve Bahrain’s ongoing crisis is through meaningful political reform.”

President Obama will travel to Riyadh this month, where he is expected to meet with King Abdullah to discuss a range of security issues in the Middle East.