Monday, March 5, 2012

More on Dialogue and Union

As I am attempting to finish a book review and book chapter for an upcoming volume on sectarianism in the Gulf, I have little extra time for an extensive post here. Thus I will pass along a well-informed report on the weekend's events from the G2K mailing list.

Before that, however, there are a number of interesting articles in Al-Watan regarding the rumored "union" between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Sunni mobilization:

Now for Bahrain's latest developments:
1. The preacher of the "official" grand mosque in the Bahraini capital
(Ahmed Al-Fateh Islamic Centre) Sheik Fareed Al-Meftah spoke today
about the unity between Bahrain & Saudi Arabia, indicating that this
will be announced (may be end of the year) as a first step towards
achieving "union" amongst GCC states. Al-Meftah said "the Gulf Union
is a long-awaited dream… and here we are today, we witness God's
blessing for achieving this unity that will be for the advantages and
benefits to the citizens of the (GCC) countries in all social,
cultural, economic, security, and military aspects…". He went on to
say that the "first step for this unity" will be between Bahrain and
Saudi Arabia.

2. On the other hand, the opposition cleric Sheik Isa Qassim called for
"mass demonstrations" on 9 March 2012 that will stretch along the
strategic Budaya Highway next Friday. At the same time, the opposition
groups led by Al-Wefaq started on 2 Match 2012 a week-long "evening"
gatherings at the entrance "Muqsha'a village" on the Budaya Highway in
a place now called by these opposition groups "Freedom Square".

3. Three days ago, the crown prince visited four Shiite clashes-ridden
areas to offer his condolences for the families of victims of a car
accident (6 girls tragically died in this accident). He ventured into
these areas without extra security protection, and this was the first
time a leading member of the ruling family visits these areas since the
eruption of events last year on 14 February 2011, thus providing some
hope for a possible positive development in the near future.

4. Rumors are circulating that there are talks between Al-Wefaq and the
Royal Court Minister. This follows a very brief meeting around 2
February 2012 between Al-Wefaq and the minister. According to the
opposition sources, the meeting was extremely brief but the first of
its kind. Later on 14 February 2012, Al-Wefaq received an "untitled &
unsigned" single page from the minister stating four principles (or
pre-conditions) for a possible dialogue. A fifth pre-condition was
passed verbally, but Al-Watan newspaper (linked to the official circle)
announced it on its first page of 24 February 2012. These principles
are considered as "PRE-CONDITIONS" imposed on the opposition and are as

a. Recognition of the National Action Charter (passed on 14 February 2001 by a referendum that received 98.4% approval).

b. Recognition of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bahrain (unilaterally issued by the King on 14 February 2002).

c. Recognition of the GCC Charter and the call for UNITY amongst its member states.

d. Accepting the outcome of the 'National Consensus Dialogue" concluded in July 2011 (which Al-Wefaq boycotted because the opposition were given 35 seats out of 300, and because the agenda was tightly preset & controlled).

e. Al-Wefaq must apologize for using violence in the health and education sectors during the events of last year - as published by Al-Watan newspaper on 24 February (something which the opposition denies it had done so anyway).

Needless to say these pre-conditions couldn't & wouldn't be accepted by the opposition, in the same [way that] pre-conditions couldn't & wouldn't be accepted by the official circle.
Update: Yesterday's AP article--"Saudi widens Arab Spring backlash with Bahrain 'union' plans"--covers the above main points and more.

Update 2: A story in Al-Ayam cites high-level sources in claiming that "there will be an announcement [of a new dialogue] in the new few days." No word whether there will also be a follow-up committee to study the announcement of a new dialogue.


  1. Justin - You should visit Bahrain. When you are there you will see that there really isnt much going on. It really is bizarre, all this politics and creative writing on the part of journalists and bloggers, yet life seems to be the same. Its as if the plan was to take the country back to pre-Feb 2011. It feels like nothing really changed, on the surface at least.

    1. Nothing has changed in Bahrain. There is still torture going on, there is still no return to jobs for hundreds who suddenly lost them, there is still teargassing on extreme levels. Medics, students and other political prisoners are still not free. Two photos from recent days:
      Ali, cut with knives on his front, back, face & hands by CID & told to Inform on his friends.
      Infant Yahya Yousif Ahmed died, suffocated by tear gas thrown in RasRoman village #Bahrain yesterday, March 4th.

      UN were sending their Special Rapporteur to Bahrain. He checks that no torture is happening; he has been asked not to come.
      Amnesty were to have come, but although all F1 fans can get a visa for 14 days, all NGOs, and HR organisations, can get only a 5 day visa and not at weekends. Amnesty now are not coming.
      Weekends in the villages is not something the regime want UN, NGOs or Amnesty to witness.

      Sal Rahin, wake up!

  2. Well, apart from the (still very theoretical) issue of some sort of Saudi-Bahrain union, shouldn't we assume that that is exactly the plan?

    After all, if the Kuwaiti ruling family can wait out the first Gulf War in a Washington hotel and then return after the Iraqis are gone as if nothing happened, can't we assume the Al Khalifa would be happy to do the same following a period that is much less dramatic?

  3. Agreed and thank god that is their approach. Otherwise the whole Feb 14th charade would serve to encourage the village minions who complain of too much tear gas (is there ever too much? and havent they heard the rule about not inhaling!). Then every couple of years they will think that if we protest we can get this or that. Well I say no, not now, not ever. Back to pre 14th Feb days and all the way back to serfdom if possible!!

    1. @Sal Rahim: "is there ever too much? and havent they heard the rule about not inhaling!"

      For someone who makes fun of people a lot, you sure do make a lot of utterly stupid statements. Few points:

      1- "Tear gas works by irritating mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, and causes crying, sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, pain in the eyes, temporary blindness, etc.". Yes, don't inhale, that will definitely help.

      2- Teargas can get inside your house even without much ventilation. I live a few hundred meters from where clashes happen, and we get the occasional teargas canister to ruin our evenings every now and then. Good luck holding your breath in your own house until the gas is gone.

      3- Please don't speak on the subject as if you've had experience, and learn a bit before you make this arrogant and ignorant assumptions.

    2. What a wonderfully "friendly" approach. Does this mean you are basically advocating that the people who revolted - mainly Shia - are best living in a state of Serfdom? This is your conclusion from those terrible events - what is in your heart?

  4. 1-@Sal Rahim: trolling unsuccessful

    2-@justin:"After all, if the Kuwaiti ruling family can wait out the first Gulf War in a Washington hotel and then return after the Iraqis are gone as if nothing happened, can't we assume the Al Khalifa would be happy to do the same following a period that is much less dramatic?"

    I admit thats a very creative theory which would enable this "unity" to take place , the rumors are getting stronger by the day , therefore I see two explanations for the "forced-leaking" , either they want a better bargining chip , or they are trying to force Alwefaq to diologue before this "unity" takes place.

  5. Thank me Justin. Thank me. Your blog has been a sleepy place for a while and I have awakened it with my vicious remarks.

    BTW - Dont you think its funny that a guy called "farm land investment" is complaining about my comment on Serfdom? Hilarious!!

  6. The pre-conditions are ridiculous. Wefaq will certainly reject them.

    What the hell are the US, British, etc. i.e. the western diplomats doing?

  7. @farm land: Actually Sal is suggesting even more, namely that Shi'a RETURN to the sort of serfdom that characterized pre-1920s Bahrain.

    @Sal: I'll grant you the 'farm land investment' irony.

    As for the rest of it, I think the 'sleepiness' here and elsewhere (see the number of visitors to pro-govt/opposition forums, e.g.) has most to do with--as you note yourself in the first comment--the sense that things in Bahrain are not really changing. The country has seemed to reach a stability borne of several mutually-reinforcing conflicts at various layers of politics (in society, in the ruling family, between Saudi-Bahrain).

    In any case, as I note at the beginning of the post I'm taking on more work than usual, so I don't mind a reprieve. I don't claim for this site/blog to be more than it is.

  8. Dont take my comments to heart Justin. We appreciate your thoughtful analysis and balanced approach, not to mention the underlying humour within your postings.

  9. It seems the Associated Press thought twice (at whose urging?) about a negative headline implicating Saudi Arabia in its counter-revolutionary activities. "Widens Arab Spring backlash" has been edited out and replaced by "Flexes Gulf Grip" in the story on union with Bahrain. Here is an active link to the now sugar-coated article:


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.