Mullen Reaffirms American-Bahraini Alliance

MANAMA, Bahrain, Feb. 25, 2011 — Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen con­tin­ued his vis­it to Bahrain today to reaf­firm the U.S.-Bahraini rela­tion­ship as the protest move­ment here entered its 12th day.
The chair­man arrived in the Bahrai­ni cap­i­tal last night to meet with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khal­i­fa, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khal­i­fa, and retired Maj. Gen. Abdul­latif bin Rashed al-Zayani, the Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil sec­re­tary gen­er­al.

Bahrain's King Hamad bIn Isa Al Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad bIn Isa Al Khal­i­fa in Man­a­ma, Bahrain, Feb. 24, 2011. Mullen is on a week­long trip through the Mid­dle East to reas­sure friends and allies of the U.S. com­mit­ment to region­al sta­bil­i­ty.
DOD pho­to by U.S. Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 1st Class Chad J. McNee­ley
Click to enlarge

Mullen “reaf­firmed our strong com­mit­ment to our mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship with the Bahrai­ni defense forces,” said Navy Capt. John Kir­by, the admiral’s spokesman. The Crown Prince also serves as com­man­der in chief of Bahrain’s defense force.

Kir­by said the chair­man also thanked Bahrai­ni lead­ers “for the very mea­sured way they have been han­dling the pop­u­lar cri­sis here.” Mullen, the spokesman added, also solicit­ed Bahrai­ni lead­ers’ views and expressed appre­ci­a­tion for their insights and “how they are deal­ing with the changes they are mak­ing on behalf of their peo­ple.”

Dur­ing last night’s ses­sions, the talks focused on the tur­moil that has gripped Bahrain since the upris­ing began Feb. 14, includ­ing a police raid last week in Manama’s Pearl Square that left sev­en peo­ple dead.

Senior Bahrai­ni lead­ers have since tak­en steps to avoid using vio­lence against pro­test­ers and to address their con­cerns.

“The probe com­mit­tee in charge of inves­ti­gat­ing the recent regret­table inci­dent is con­tin­u­ing its work,” Hamad told Mullen dur­ing last night’s meet­ing, accord­ing to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.

The king also stressed “firm keen­ness to ensure cit­i­zens’ safe­ty and estab­lish each party’s rights,” the report said.

Mullen reit­er­at­ed his sup­port for the crown prince’s order that secu­ri­ty force not use force against the pro­tes­tors and to call to engage in a mul­ti-par­ty nation­al dia­logue.

“I have great admi­ra­tion for steps the crown prince has tak­en,” Mullen told reporters before land­ing here last night.

“I cer­tain­ly decry the vio­lence,” he empha­sized. But “it’s a very impor­tant mes­sage that as soon as the forces went away, the vio­lence went away. And I think that both sides respond­ed in a way that ensured vio­lence would not con­tin­ue.”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t eval­u­ate it,” he said.

At last night’s talks, Mullen praised the “giant leaps” Bahrain has tak­en over the past10 years under the king’s reform project, the Bahrain News Agency report­ed. He also stressed U.S. sup­port for the bilat­er­al part­ner­ship and friend­ship.

Bahrain is a crit­i­cal, long­time ally and host to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, Mullen told reporters yes­ter­day, adding that he looks to that rela­tion­ship con­tin­u­ing into the future.

Mullen was sched­uled to vis­it Naval Sup­port Activ­i­ty Bahrain today for updates on Marine Expe­di­tionary Brigade Bahrain oper­a­tions and the work of the Marine Corps Secu­ri­ty Force Regiment’s fleet antiter­ror­ism secu­ri­ty tam oper­a­tions.

The chair­man arrived in Man­a­ma last night for the sixth stop on his week-long trip through the region. Mullen told reporters he was focused on “reaf­firm­ing, reas­sur­ing and also try­ing to under­stand where the lead­er­ships of these coun­tries are going, and in par­tic­u­lar in Bahrain.”

Mullen said he “hon­est­ly nev­er gave a sec­ond thought” to recon­sid­er­ing the long-planned vis­it here after events here and else­where in the region, even in light of last week’s events.

Thou­sands of pro­tes­tors report­ed­ly staged anoth­er march just before the chair­man arrived, and lead­ing Shi­ite cler­ics had called for more demon­stra­tions today to hon­or those killed last week.

The pro­tes­tors, most of them from Bahrain’s major­i­ty Shi­ite pop­u­la­tion, are call­ing for the long-rul­ing minor­i­ty Sun­ni al-Khal­i­fa monar­chy to step down.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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