Tuesday, May 31, 2011

US Embassy Bahrain's Ludovic Hood: Move was in the "context of the summer transfer season" -- ur kidding, right?

The Deputy Spokesman, Mr. Toner was dancing around the circumstances surrounding the departure of FSO Ludovic Hood from the US Embassy in Manama due to reported threats.  This report says that the campaign against Hood had been going on for two months with one of the most virulent attacks coming May 7 in an anonymous posting on a pro-government website that included links to photos of Hood and his wife on their wedding day and information on where Hood and his family lived.

The head of the office, the blog claimed, was "a person of Jewish origin named Ludovic Hood," and charged: "He's the one who trained and provoked the demonstrators to clash with the army" near the Pearl Roundabout that was the epicenter of the demonstrations.

Hood also was "the one" telling the opposition of the steps they should take "to inflame the situation," the posting claimed.

The blogger called for "honest people to avenge" Hood's role, gave the neighborhood in which he lived with his family in Manama, the capital, and promised to provide his street address. It linked to a wedding photo of Hood with his "Jewish wife, Alisa Newman."

One reporter got so dizzy from Mr. Toner's dance moves and finally requested a fill in the blanks briefing: "if you could say it in a full sentence: He was not transferred back to D.C. because of --"

QUESTION: Can you talk about this report that – about threats to one of your diplomats in Bahrain and his reassignment --
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: -- or relocation?
MR. TONER: My understanding on this, Matt, is this is – you’re talking about Ludovic Hood--
MR. TONER: -- who came back to the U.S. from Manama. He did just complete his tour in Manama and returned to Washington; he’s taken up a position here within the State Department. So he wasn’t recalled in his posting. As you know, our assignment cycle has already been set for, like, the last six months or so. That said, we are aware, as press reports have cited, that there were threats, accusations made against him on some websites, and obviously we take the safety of our diplomatic personnel very seriously. But in this case he was simply transferred back to Washington.
QUESTION: So it did – his coming back to D.C. had nothing to do with the --
MR. TONER: Yeah. No.
QUESTION: Are you investigating?
MR. TONER: It didn’t. It simply was his normal transfer. Sorry, am I not – no --
QUESTION: Well, no, I mean –
MR. TONER: We are – I guess I’m doing --
QUESTION: -- if you could say it in a full sentence: He was not transferred back to D.C. because of --
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. I’ll give you the quote. No, he was not brought back here because of these accusations or allegations.
QUESTION: The reports of these allegations were on government-affiliated or associated websites and media there. Have you made any representations to the Bahrain Government to stop baselessly accusing your envoys there?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we have no way to confirm that they were actually made by the government or people within the Government of Bahrain. I’m aware that they were on these websites. But it’s unacceptable that any elements there would target an individual, a diplomat, for carrying out his duties. But beyond that, I’m not aware that it was raised --
QUESTION: Is the Bahrain foreign minister meeting with Steinberg today?
MR. TONER: He is, actually.
QUESTION: Is that going to be a subject of discussion?
MR. TONER: I don’t know what – they’re going to speak broadly about regional issues and then, obviously, very clearly they’re going to talk about the bilateral issues, including steps to ensure that civil rights and human rights are respected and that the government works to foster a constructive political change, but I can’t specifically say whether that’s going to be raised.
QUESTION: Just to put a final point on this Hood incident, you’re saying that – I understand that his tour was coming to a close and he was coming home, but you’re saying he was not brought back early because of these incidents?
MR. TONER: My understanding is that he wasn’t.
QUESTION: You’re sure about that?
MR. TONER: As sure as – I said my understanding is that he was not brought back early.
QUESTION: My understanding is he was brought back several weeks early. I mean, we’re not disputing that his tour was coming --
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: -- to an end, but --
MR. TONER: Right. My understanding is that it was not. While there were, obviously, concerns about his security – and again, we take the safety of our diplomats – and I don’t think we’re disputing that there were allegations or accusations, I guess, against him --
QUESTION: No, we’re not disputing that.
MR. TONER: -- and we view that as scurrilous. We condemn it. But as far as his transfer goes, I believe it was done just within the context of the summer transfer season.

This report says that Mr. Hood left Bahrain last Thursday. According to unnamed U.S. officials cited by the report, "during his final days in Bahrain, Hood was given security protection equal to that of an ambassador."
"The safety and security of our diplomatic personnel is our highest priority," the State Department in Washington said in a statement in response to inquiries from McClatchy Newspapers. "It is unacceptable that elements within Bahrain would target an individual for carrying out his professional duties."

It is reported here that in in his final message to his friends in Bahrain, Hood apologized that he had had to assume a low profile in his final weeks and couldn't say goodbye. In his message, he sounded like a man ordered home on short notice.

"Hello," he wrote. "I am leaving Bahrain today and moving back to Washington. I will start my new assignment at the State Department in June. I am sorry I was not able to say goodbye properly. Given recent developments affecting the Embassy, it was prudent for me to keep a low profile during my final weeks in Bahrain."

He was just transferred back to DC on a regular rotation. Right. It's not a state-sponsored targeting so no need to file a diplomatic protest. Right. To acknowledge that probably means the Deputy SecState would have to bring it up with the Bahraini Foreign Minister, like, "What are you trying to do targeting our people dude?" Except that Mr. FM of another great ally, may not like that, especially if delivered in an uppercase voice. 

Anyway, Mr. Hood will start work at the mothership in June; tomorrow is already June. He doesn't get any leave before he starts his new job?  Yeah. Sounds pretty regular.

Nothing to see here, just "normal rotation." Move along folks.

Now, what's in Bahrain, again? Right.

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