Balance and power: Joseph Adam Ereli

  • Share via facebook
  • Tweet this
  • Bookmark and Share

Last year the BBC launched a television show called Ambassadors, a comedy-drama following the lives of a new British ambassador and his staff as they juggled the challenges beset the British embassy in a fictional Central Asian nation of Tazbekistan.

The opening episode focused on the team’s struggle to rescue a faltering multi-billion dollar helicopter deal as news surfaced of the regime’s arrest of a notorious British human rights activist.

Someone who knows all too well the fact behind such fiction and the juggling involved in high-level international diplomacy is Joseph Adam Ereli, a former human rights activist and investigative reporter who joined the US Foreign Service in 1989 and served a four-year term as US ambassador to Bahrain until June 2011.

During his tenure in Manama, Ereli oversaw the implementation of a Free Trade Agreement with Bahrain, resolved a number of contentious issues and doubled bilateral trade between the two countries. He also secured a number of significant joint-venture partnerships, helped oversee a $3bn sale of Boeing aircraft to Gulf Air and negotiated important base access and security cooperation agreements on behalf of the Washington government.

At the same time, Bahrain became engulfed in Arab Spring anti-government protests and suffered a backlash from human rights activists, such as Amnesty International, who criticised its crackdown and accused it of excessive use of force, torture of rebels and a failure to implement proper reforms fast enough.

So, in real life, how does a Middle East diplomat balance the sometimes conflicting obligations? “That is a really good question... There is clearly and undeniably a tension,” Ereli concedes. “The trick is how you balance that. Human rights is important [and] something every ambassador cannot neglect.

“Some would argue, ‘forget about the human rights stuff, you need to sell arms and arms are more important to America than human rights and someone in prison’. That is true but only up to a point.

“America’s power is a combination of our economic might, our military might and our moral strength. When I say moral strength I mean the ideal of what America represents, that is what I would call our brand. If you are selling a product... if the ideal of the brand suffers, you are not going to be able to sell anything.

“If you cease to be that shining city on the hill, which is what the American ideal is, then nobody is going to buy anything from you. At the same time, in the near and short term, are you going to say don’t sell billions of arms to Qatar because they are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood?”

Article continued on next page...

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

  • No comments yet, be the first!

Enter the words above: Enter the numbers you hear:

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Events that moved the markets

Events that moved the markets

What, if anything, have we learnt from past crises that have...

A country on hold: Oman's next step?

A country on hold: Oman's next step?

The Gulf state has been relatively stable under the rule of one...

Saudi king keeps close hand on oil in remodelling strategic team

Saudi king keeps close hand on oil in remodelling strategic team

King is clearly laying the ground for a generational shift in...

Most Discussed
  • 8
    Has Narendra Modi already lost the plot?

    Do something for your country instead of giving an overview from outside the country. This article does not have indepth view of the policies announced... more

    Thursday, 26 March 2015 2:47 PM - umas
  • 4
    Nakheel PR: The toughest job in Dubai?

    I would suspect the damage is done. Nakheel should have put its customers first and made them allies. Instead, it has treated them as second-class citizens... more

    Friday, 27 March 2015 2:42 AM - Chris
  • 3
    Drunk passenger who slapped air stewardess jailed in Dubai

    @Nezaud is 100% correct. Infact I think it is utter hypocrisy for airlines to complain about Drunken passengers when it is they (the airlines) who are... more

    Friday, 27 March 2015 2:42 AM - Robert Carter