Startling New Evidence Shows US Troops Helped Despotic Regimes Battle the Arab Spring Uprisings
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Of the dozens of joint-training exercises it sponsored these last years, CENTCOM would only acknowledge two by name: Leading Edge, a 30-nation exercise focused on counter-proliferation last held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in late 2010; and Eager Resolve, an annual exercise to simulate a coordinated response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high yield explosive attack, involving the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
However, military documents, open-source reports, and other data analyzed by TomDispatch offer a window into the training relationships that CENTCOM refused to acknowledge. While details of these missions remain sparse at best, the results are clear: during 2011, U.S. troops regularly partnered with and trained the security forces of numerous regimes that were actively beating back democratic protests and stifling dissent within their borders.
Getting Friendly With the Kingdom
In January, for example, the government of Saudi Arabia curtailed what little freedom of expression existed in the kingdom by instituting severe new restrictions regarding online news and commentary by its citizens. That same month, Saudi authorities launched a crackdown on peaceful demonstrators. Shortly afterward, six Saudi men sought government recognition for the country’s first political party whose professed aims, according to Human Rights Watch, included “greater democracy and protection for human rights.” They were promptly arrested.
On February 19th, just three days after those arrests, U.S. and Saudi forces launched Friendship Two, a training exercise in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. For the next 10 days, 4,100 American and Saudi troops practiced combat maneuvers and counterinsurgency tactics under an unrelenting desert sun. “This is a fantastic exercise and a fantastic venue, and we’re sending a real good message out to the people of the region,” insisted Major General Bob Livingston, a National Guard commander who took part in the mission. “The engagements that we have with the Saudi Arabian army affect their army, it affects our Army, but it also shows the people of the region our ability to cooperate with each other and our ability to be able to operate together.”