After weeks of internal debate on how to respond to the wave of revolts in the Arab world, the Obama administration is settling on a new Middle East strategy: help keep longtime allies who are willing to reform in power, even if that means the full democratic demands of their citizens might have to wait. According to WSJ, instead of pushing for immediate regime change Washington is urging protesters from Bahrain to Morocco to work with existing rulers toward "regime alteration."
The approach has emerged amid furious lobbying of the administration by Arab governments, who were alarmed that President Barack Obama had abandoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Also in Bahrain, the U.S. decision to back the ruling family came after harsh criticism of its handling of protests there. On Friday, the kingdom's opposition mounted one of its largest rallies.
"What we have said throughout this is that there is a need for political, economic and social reform, but the particular approach will be country by country," an American official was quoted as saying.
A pivotal moment came in late February, in the tense hours after Mr. Obama publicly berated King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa for cracking down violently on antigovernment demonstrators in Bahrain's capital. Envoys for the king and his Arab allies shuttled from the Pentagon to the State Department and the White House with a carefully coordinated message.