The recent wave of violence in Bahrain has presented President Obama with what is turning into a familiar conundrum -- how and how intensively to intervene as an Arab U.S. ally uses violence to suppress a pro-democracy uprising among its people.
Obama condemned that violence Friday in a written statement that also sought to quell reprisals against pro-democracy activists in Yemen and Libya, saying:
I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur. We express our condolences to the family and friends of those who have been killed during the demonstrations. Wherever they are, people have certain universal rights including the right to peaceful assembly. The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests, and to respect the rights of their people.
Obama's statement maintained the stance he took as Egypt's protests unfolded -- where protesters at first met police resistance and then, after police left the streets, where gangs of Mubarak supporters turned violently on protesters and journalists. Throughout that turmoil, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton steadfastly called on the Egyptian government to avoid violence and respect the "universal rights" of Egyptian citizens.
The picture from Bahrain, however, appears grimmer for pro-democracy activists, as police opened fire on the protestors Friday. The New York Times reports that shots were fired from at least one helicopter.
Though there had been allegations of police firing guns at protestors early in Egyptian uprising, and police did fire tear gas and rubber bullets, live fire from police was largely absent from reports out of Egypt.