THE US must stand shoulder to shoulder with Bahrain rather than criticise its close ally, said a former diplomat.
Former US ambassador to Bahrain Adam Ereli admitted mistakes were made in the past, affecting or straining bilateral relations.
“I would hope the US has learned its lesson: Public criticism of friends and allies is more often than not counter-productive.
“Even the closest of partners will have differences but the challenge of diplomacy is to find the most productive way to engage in a dialogue about resolving them.
“In the past, US officials seem to have forgotten this important lesson.”
Former US assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour Tom Malinowski was declared persona non grata by Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry in 2014.
It followed his meeting with now defunct Al Wefaq National Islamic Society secretary-general Shaikh Ali Salman and former member of parliament Abduljalil Khalil at the opposition group’s headquarters in Bilad Al Qadeem during a Ramadan majlis.
In 2011, Bahraini MPs issued a vote of no confidence against former US envoy Thomas Krajeski’s appointment due to alleged meetings with members of Bahrain’s opposition.
Mr Ereli said Bahrain’s stability is important for the US.
“The continued stability and prosperity of Bahrain should be our highest priority, and our two countries must find ways to work together productively.
“When President (Donald) Trump told His Majesty King Hamad that ‘there won’t be a strain with this administration’, he was sending a clear signal of his intent to move in this direction.”
Mr Ereli said nobody understood Bahrain better than its leaders, who are taking key steps toward economic diversification and social tolerance.
“Long before other states in the region, they (Bahrain’s leaders) recognised the danger of sectarianism, which is why for centuries they have practised a unique level of political and social tolerance.
“They have been at the forefront of economic liberalisation and diversification, which has served as a model that neighbours are now following.”
Furthermore, Mr Ereli said Bahrain sits at the region’s geo-strategic centre of gravity, located between Saudi Arabia and Iran and Basra and the Straits of Hormuz to the north and south.
“I don’t think that it’s an exaggeration to say that Bahrain’s well-being is a vital security interest for the entire world.
“Unfortunately, over the last 10 years or so, Bahrain has become ground zero in a deadly game of great power competition.
“Our enemies are exploiting Bahrain’s openness to weaken it.
“The challenge to which we must find a sustainable solution is: How do you protect yourself yet at the same time stay true to your values as a nation and a people?
“The US faced just such a challenge after 9/11, and, frankly, we made a number of major mistakes.
“Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and the harassment of Muslim-Americans are some of the examples.”
Striking the right balance between liberty and security is imperative for Bahrain, he said.
“It is never easy but as Bahrain seeks that balance, it should be able to rely on the US for support, respect and assistance.”
He said having worked with Bahrain’s leadership and the ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs, he had full confidence in them to be able to manage the country’s affairs.
“They are men of integrity, vision and goodwill who only want the best for all Bahrainis.
“The US and other friends of Bahrain should make it clear that we will stand by them, that they can count on us and that they will not be not alone in taking the hard decisions that these difficult times require.”