Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Neither Wedding-Bound Nor Politically-Relevant: the Crown Prince and the New "Extremist Elements" in Bahrain

Fresh off the news that Crown Prince Salman has "declined" his much-criticized invitation to the celebrity love-fest that is the UK royal wedding, newspapers everywhere seem to have discovered what we've been arguing here since March 20 ("A Different Sort of Coup"): he is now all but irrelevant within the Al Khalifa. This Telegraph piece, for example, reports not only this but acknowledges another of our long-made claims, saying,
Since then, the prime minister, along with the military chief, Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed, another royal relative whose brother is the minister for the royal court, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed, have been leading the crackdown, in which 30 people have died and hundreds detained.

It has been reported Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah gave King Hamad no choice but to crack down and said he was sending in troops anyway.

Now, I won't say any more here about this, which is essentially a belated recognition of something that happened a long while ago. For those interested in the details of the Crown Prince's sidelining, including some Royal Court intrigue and rumor, I suggest you read the article linked above, "A Different Sort of Coup."

Instead, the more important upshot now is that we are left in Bahrain with a lack of political moderates--and not foremost on the side of the opposition. If King Hamad writes in his op-ed last week that "the legitimate demands of the opposition were hijacked by extremist elements with ties to foreign governments in the region," we might easily make the same argument about Bahrain's rulers: that "the legitimate political dialogue initiative of the Crown Prince was hijacked by extremist elements with ties to foreign governments in the region," only the "extremists" here are not Shi'a revolutionaries but the Prime Minister and his clique, the "foreign governments in the region" not Iran but Saudi Arabia. This now-familiar thesis cuts both ways.

This fact is put in even more stark relief when compared to the quite deferential statement (Ar.) released by al-Wifaq on Sunday regarding "recent political developments." I have not seen an English translation yet nor indeed any coverage of it at all (perhaps precisely because it says little new), but it begins by praising the King and Crown Prince, including the King's disingenuous op-ed in the Washington Times. It goes on to reject "the various forms of foreign interference" in internal Bahraini affairs (point 1); to tell citizens to stop spreading "disinformation" via "official" and "semi-official" (read: Internet) media (point 2); and more generally to call for a political rather than military solution to the ongoing crisis. It does eventually make references to private and public sector employees (including medical personnel) detained and fired, as well as a more veiled reference to the Shi'a mosques that have been destroyed, but overall its weak tone seems to have disappointed many ordinary Shi'is.

As if we needed more evidence of this lack of moderates within the Bahraini political leadership, then, especially as viewed next to the supposedly "extremist" opposition, here are a few headlines just from today:

And a final one, which cannot be contained within a mere bullet point, is the latest stop on the Prime Minister's nationwide allegiance drive: a personal visit to the medical staff of some unnamed hospital (more likely the BDF Hospital than Salmaniyyah). In typically over-the-top fashion, he is said to have told them,

"You answered the call of duty when your country needed you most, while others [who could these be?], misled by the self-destructive mantra, let Bahrain down and hijacked the medical profession from its noble mission."

He paid the heart-felt tribute as he received a group of doctors, who submitted an allegiance pledge.

So in the previous two weeks only: 1) the Prime Minister has received businessmen at his palace in a "day of reckoning" in which they were chastised for not having been more outspoken against demonstrations; 2) the King's son Nasr became the royal patron of a national "loyalty pledge" campaign in which citizens are encouraged to sign their names to pledge books at stations around the country (Update: this program is now taking online signatures! Register TODAY, and make sure to have your Bahrain National ID card ready!); and 3) the Prime Minister is seeking pledges of allegiance from medical staff after the debacle at Salmaniyyah Hospital.

I wonder if there is a book you can sign to request that your home or local mosque not be demolished. It seems that asking in person is not the way to go.

Finally, not to be outdone by other U.S. allies in the Arab Gulf are the Emiratis, who today detained five of those who sent a petition to the ruler of Abu Dhabi some weeks ago requesting political reforms. They are accused of "crimes of instigation, breaking laws and perpetrating acts that pose threat to state security, undermining the public order, opposing the government system, and insulting the President, the Vice President and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi."

Admittedly, though, they do sound like some dangerous individuals:

"Dr Nasser bin Ghaith [is] an economics professor at Abu Dhabi's Sorbonne University."

"Mr al Shehhi is the head of the Al Shahouh Folklore Society, one of the four civil society associations that signed a second petition calling for universal suffrage in upcoming Federal National Council elections."

No word yet whether the five arrested were trained by Hizballah or by Iran directly through its Social Science Warfare division.

In any case, I think we can expect a sharply-worded rebuke from President Obama any day now.


  1. J.G.,

    I must say that not only do you have an unnatural knack of "seeing the unseen", your insight is without equal, and your sources are impeccable. You sir, are a credit to your field, your nation and humanity.

    Kudos for a absolutely smashing blog!!

    With Compliments,

    Mongo_Beans (aka the Maniac of Manama)

  2. Indeed, my Bahraini friend! And let's not forget it!

  3. Awesome article...
    right on the spot -in my point of view-... let's pray for the best

  4. I admit I had similar thoughts about the situation, but generally speaking I'm not a person who can translate my thoughts into words very well, you on the other hand have obviously the experience of years in just that :P

    Excellent piece anyhow, very interesting like the rest of your blog, keep them coming!

  5. Unfortunately, there is no wings in the ruling family that govern Bahrain. They exchange roles from time to time, so you see the PM acting as intolerant with peaceful protester during silence of Crown Prince, and at different time, this late appear in the media with initiative or dialog. We believe in Bahrain, that all of them share responsibilities of crimes, the CP has declared during the crackdown, that dialog is not valid anymore, and we are convinced that he wasn't serious in anytime on his initiative, which was just to consume time, and publicity over global media.


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