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The U.S. 'supercop' tapped to train Bahraini police

Only days after the release of an independent report in Bahrain indicating that security forces there used excessive force during the government's recent crackdown on protesters, Bahraini officials have announced that they will be hiring John Timoney, a U.S. "supercop," to train the island kingdom's police force. The Ministy of Interior notes that Timoney succeeded in "reducing crime and implementing proper practices for the use of force" during his 7 years as police chief in Miami. Timoney, who also served as police commissioner in Philadelphia, will report directly to Bahrain's interior minister. The government is touting the decision as an example of its commitment to reform and reconciliation.

So, is Timoney's record as sterling as the Bahraini government suggests? The police chief has certainly won plaudits for his work. In a 2002 profile, the Los Angeles Times noted that Timoney had "made a career of cleaning up police messes" and become a "celebrity" in Philadelphia for reducing property crime and managing to keep "the peace with a minimum of arrests and street violence when protests threatened the Republican National Convention in 2000." A New Yorker profile eight years later called Timoney "one of the most progressive and effective police chiefs in the country," noting that no Miami cops fired a shot in the first 20 months after he assumed control of the police department, which had a reputation for shooting civilians.

But Timoney has also endured his fair share of criticism, particularly surrounding his handling of protests -- Bahrain's big problem, after all -- at the 2000 RNC convention in Philadelphia (preceded by a brutal police beating) and the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas summit in Miami. The American Civil Liberties Union accused Philadelphia police of infiltrating political activist groups in 2000 and Miami police of using "excessive force to intimidate and unlawfully arrest innocent bystanders and protesters who were exercising their free speech rights" in 2003. During the free trade summit, Jeremy Scahill, reporting for Democracy Now!, claimed that Timoney  was spinning "tales of 'hard-core anarchists rampaging through the streets of Miami" even as riot police backed by armored personnel carriers and helicopters fired rubber bullets and chemicals " indiscriminately into crowds of unarmed protesters."

Timoney, who's now working in the private sector, doesn't seem to have commented much on the Arab Spring. But he did discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests recently with CNN's Piers Morgan. Here's what he said about the movement:

I think there's a consensus that it has to do with Wall Street greed and the pains that the country's been going through for the last two years vis-a-vis the economy.

However, as this has dragged on, not just in New York City but in Oakland and Philadelphia and others where other elements have joined the protests, not with the best of intentions, with agendas, there have been documented cases of criminal activity ...

Now there's -- I think a pretty decent amount of public antipathy towards the protests right now because it seems like that they've gone beyond reasonable and once it starts getting into the area of public health but also criminal activity, there's a problem.

Timoney, it turns out, may not be the only controversial "supercop" helping Bahrain with its police training. This afternoon, the Telegraph reported that Bahrain is also hiring John Yates, the Metropolitan Police official who resigned in July over criticism about his handling of the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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The Election 2012 Weekly Report: Strength and clarity on the campaign trail

All Cain's friends and allies

After weeks of stumbles and gaffes on foreign policy, Herman Cain attempted to clarify his views of the world with a speech on national security at Michigan's Hillsdale College and a document defining his assessment of various countries. But neither exactly succeeded at burnishing Cain's credentials. The Hillsdale speech, on the theme of "peace through strength and clarity," was described by the National Review's John J. Miller as "curiously light on substance." The document, which puts 20 countries into categories like "friend and ally" (Canada) or "adversary regime" (Iran and Venezuela) seemed, as FP's Daniel Drezner put it, to consist of "whatever his interns could find off Wikipedia."

Romney's foreign flip-flops

Both the Democratic National Committee and Jon Huntsman's campaign unveiled video ads this week attacking Mitt Romney for having changed his views on a variety of issues including abortion, climate change, and his own healthcare plan. Romney rejected the charge in a testy and widely viewed interview with Fox News' Bret Baier. The "flip-flopper" charge has been extended into foreign policy as well. Barack Obama's campaign sent a memo to reporters last week drawing attention to Romney's differing statements on Afghanistan and accusing him of having five different positions on Libya. Romney's not the only one facing the flip-flopper charge this week. Ron Paul's campaign has unveiled a new ad accusing Newt Gingrich of "serial hypocrisy."

Bachmann's Iran brain freeze

Michele Bachmann seemed to suggest that the United States shut down a non-existent diplomatic post on Wednesday, when she told the crowd at a pizza restaurant in Waverly, Iowa, "You may have heard that there was a break-in at the British embassy, and the British had to pull their people out.... That's exactly what I would do. We wouldn't have an American embassy in Iran. I wouldn't allow that to be there. Because they are a state sponsor of terror." The United States hasn't had an embassy in Tehran since the 1979 hostage crisis. A spokesperson for Bachmann, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, said the candidate was speaking hypothetically. Bachmann's foreign-policy credentials did get a vote of confidence from an unexpected source this week, when CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who moderated the Nov. 23 debate in Washington D.C., praised her argument for continuing aid to Pakistan on the basis that it's "too nuclear to fail."

Dems fight back on Israel

After weeks of attacks by the Republican candidates, accusing the White House of failing to stand with Israel, Democrats seem to be going on the offensive on the issue. At a fundraising dinner hosted by the chairman of the American Jewish Congress this week, Obama boasted that "this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration." Democratic Representative Steve Rothman picked up the theme in an op-ed, attacking Gingrich, Romney, and Rick Perry for arguing that foreign aid for all countries should "start at zero," saying, "The Jewish State of Israel should not have to worry about a U.S. president who wants to start Israel's aid at zero."

Foreign policy on the back burner?

The Huffington Post's Michael Calderone spoke with a number of prominent conservative commentators this week for a piece looking at the diminished role foreign policy is playing in this year's campaign and the lack of defining foreign-policy worldviews among the candidates, with the exception of Paul's isolationism. The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer said the current political climate is similar to the early 1990s when "some kind of clear ideological, foreign policy worldview was more difficult to apply." While global issues are being overshadowed by the economy at the moment, New York Times columnist David Brooks predicted that "foreign policy, and in particular, the Middle East, will emerge as a much bigger issue than anyone expects right now."

What to watch for: With Gingrich surging into the lead in the polls, Romney is ramping up his operation in Iowa. The candidates will meet for a debate in Des Moines on Dec. 10.

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Joshua Keating takes a look at Gingrich's 1971 doctoral thesis on, of all things, Belgian colonial policy in the Congo.

Drezner breaks his self-imposed Herman Cain blogging ban. [Ed. We knew he couldn't hold out.]

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