In my understanding, there is not a big difference between Assad in Syria and Al Khalifa in Bahrain, in regard to how they rule over their people.

They both oppress their people, detain opposition, shoot demonstrators, etc. Why do the US, Turkey, UK and other western countries insist on overthrowing Assad but are good friends with Al Khalifah? Why do the Syrians "deserve" democracy but the Bahrainis do not?

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    Do you have any evidence that bringing democracy is a stated aim in Syria? Currently, I assume the objective is "Something other than Assad or ISIS".
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 27, 2015 at 1:24
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    oppress their people, detain opposition, shoot demonstrators Talking about Syrua you can use only past tense. Now it's a civil war, so no peaceful political opposition / demonstrators are possible.
    – Matt
    Nov 27, 2015 at 9:38
  • Note that the US and others weren't particularly keen on overthrowing Assad before 2011. If you look further in the past, Syria aligned with the Soviet Union and has never been particularly close with the West in strategic terms. So oppression is not the main issue.
    – Relaxed
    Nov 27, 2015 at 10:03
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    I don't know if this anecdote is true, but it explains a lot of alliances between so-called democratic countries and countries that are not so democratic: [Roosevelt's] Secretary of State, Sumner Welles, once said "Somoza's a bastard!" And Roosevelt replied, "Yes, but he's our bastard."
    – MasB
    Nov 28, 2015 at 1:16
  • @Noor, Assad is not tyrand, haply he is an individual who stand against oppressors, and he is not like al-khalifa who is an agency of the west ... / thanx for asking this effective query. Mar 6, 2016 at 15:37

4 Answers 4


In general, superpowers do not topple dictators just because of their stance on human rights. While not sharing the same values regarding democracy and civil rights can sometimes negatively impact diplomatic relations, that alone is very rarely a reason for war. Governments care primarily about the well-being of themselves and their own people. They do not get involved into internal affairs of other states except when it serves their own interests. So people like Al Khalifa in Bahrain get largely left alone as long as they only oppress their own people and don't direct or indirect cause any problems for other nations.

The reason why the western world is currently so interested in the Syrian conflict is that while Bahrain is currently politically stable, Syria already has a civil war going on which is causing problems for Europe and the rest of the western world:

  • A large number of Syrian refugees is moving to Europe, which causes:
    • The refugee management systems in many European countries to collapse.
    • Conflict between EU states about who cares for how many refugees.
    • Fear of refugees is currently leading to more and more people supporting the far-right nationalist parties in Europe which is an internal political threat to the mostly social-democratic and christ-democratic ruling parties.
  • The IS is seizing the situation and is also invading Syria. Should their invasion be successful, they will be far stronger than before and a much worse problem.

Both are problems which need to be dealt with by stabilizing Syria. Currently there is disagreement in the world how to stabilize Syria. Some want to help Assad to regain control, some want various rebel groups to govern the country and some backers in the arab world even support IS.

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    Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Relaxed
    Nov 27, 2015 at 12:35
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Nov 27, 2015 at 15:07
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    If the aim of the West is to stabilize Syria then why they inspired and supported the rebellion in the first place?
    – Anixx
    Nov 28, 2015 at 11:17
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    @Anixx There is no reason to believe that the west did "incite" the Syrian rebellion or "supported" it with anything but words. You are again falling for Russian propaganda. You will now likely reply that I am influenced by western propaganda. This might go on for hours. So may I suggest we let it at one comment and one rebuttal?
    – Philipp
    Nov 28, 2015 at 12:12
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    @Philipp are the rebels already smart enough to make TOW rocket launchers?
    – Anixx
    Nov 28, 2015 at 12:18

Bashar Assad's father fought wars against Israel, and tolerated Hezbollah's wars against the United States and Israel. Bashar Assad continues to be closely allied with Iran and Hezbollah. Neither Assad made peace with Israel.

Iran intermittently makes claims to Bahrain. If Bahrain's current government were to fall, Iran might conquer Bahrain. The United States might also lose its military base in Bahrain.


In my understanding, there is not a big difference between Assad in Syria and Al Khalifa in Bahrain, in regard how they rule over their people.
They both oppress their people, detain opposition, shoot demonstrators etc.

That somewhat depends on the timeframe.

In the recent cases, Al-Assad has used both chemical weapons (considered WMD) and other military atrocity style warfare against his opponents including civilian population. That goes way way way beyond Bahrain's level of oppression.

Prior to that level of escalation, the West didn't oppose Al-Assad either.

Why does US , Turkey, UK and other western countries insist in overthrowing Assad but are good friends with Al Khalifah. Why do the Syrians "deserve" democracy but the Bahrainis not?

  1. As noted above, because (to the best of my knowledge) Al Khalifah has no record of using WMDs against civilian population, or other war atrocities ascribed to Al-Asad.

  2. Geopolitical alignment. Bahrain's government is aligned with Sunni axis (Saudi Arabia and Turkey included) which is (or at least, was before the rise of ISIS) nominally somewhat-aligned with the West against the Shia axis of Iran-Syria-Hezbollah (+lately, Iraq).

    You will note that ever since the rise of ISIS, the West is far less interested in getting rid of Al-Assad and instead started cosying up to Shia.

    Either way, it's largely not about "democracy" - that's just one of the, and frequently, the less important, factor.

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    Proof that Assad used chemical weapons? Proof that Assad targeted civilians? Proof that the US did not support the rebellion from the beginning?
    – Anixx
    Nov 28, 2015 at 11:13
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    Al-Assad has used both chemical weapons Any proof besides yellow press? Official investigation never blamed Assad.
    – Matt
    Nov 28, 2015 at 11:14
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    Proof: Ghouta chemical attack. Parties: Assad vs rebels, no 3rd party; Target: at rebels' sites; UN Fact-finding mission found traces of sarin. Syrian/Russian excuse: rebels shelled themselves. Åke Sellström, the UN Mission head: "explanations of rebel chemical weapons acquisition unconvincing, poor theories". Nov 29, 2015 at 9:58
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    @bytebuster UN Fact-finding mission found traces of sarin And that was the only approved result of this mission. Åke Sellström words, you quote, are just his personal opinion, not a part of an official statement. After Saddam's "nuclear bomb" it's just silly to mention such void speeches.
    – Matt
    Nov 29, 2015 at 12:48
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    @bytebuster So you yourself insist that all the rebels belong to the same party (FSA=ISIL=Jabal al-Turkman=Ahrar al-Sham etc., really?) Personally I don't think so. There were/are dozens of different groups fighting in Syria. And, yes, many military bases were captured by rebels, we all know that.
    – Matt
    Nov 29, 2015 at 13:38

Overthrowing Bashar al-Assad is quite complicated, time and resource consuming. I assume that Al Khalifa will follow later. Just be patient :-)

Re. whether Al Khalifa is a priority at all:

There was a declared US policy change in 2005:

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Cairo, Egypt
June 20, 2005

For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.


Re. why is Assad a higher priority:

  • There are pretty big military American and British bases in Bahrain
  • ISIS was already in the neighbouring country and started to fight in Syria in 2011
  • Turkey was alarmed about Kurds gaining more autonomy in Iraq and Syria
  • The GDP per capita in Syria was about 7 times lower than in Bahrain making it easier to find people unhappy with the situation
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    -1 - that policy is 10 years (and 2+ SecStates and 1 Presidents) outdated. They finally tumbled on that their idea of "Democracy" is theirs, and people who they give "democracy" to have an idea of "Hamas" or "Islamic Brotherhood" - which for some strange reason doesn't seem to promote that "stability" Rice was aiming for
    – user4012
    Nov 29, 2015 at 14:38
  • the last policy lasted for 60 years. Things likes this are not changed every 5 years.
    – kaboom
    Nov 29, 2015 at 21:03
  • this policy was abandoned pretty much completely by now. Screwing over Al-Sisi was its last dying breath.
    – user4012
    Nov 29, 2015 at 22:11

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