Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Who Needs the Bahrain Grand Prix?

I have a post on the Mideast Channel today on the annual Formula One controversy titled "Who Needs the Bahrain Grand Prix?" The article, whose thesis apparently is "controversial," examines an overlooked aspect of the debate surrounding the race, namely the internal division among members of the ruling family over the wisdom and utility of hosting such an event.

In this regard it develops the paradoxical fact that the Grand Prix's longtime chief patron--and indeed perhaps its sole remaining sponsor among senior Al Khalifa--is the crown prince. His conservative competitors within the family, by contrast, in particular members of the Khawalid, would be happy to dispense with the occasion, which in their view invites only unnecessary scrutiny and a potential political pressure point.

Although it is probably unlikely to help, I would like to preemptively address the interpretation, already voiced by an early reader, that my article implies that critics of the Grand Prix ought to hold their tongues on account of the crown prince or some utilitarian political "greater good."  In fact, the piece offers no policy prescription at all but simply argues that if the race is ultimately abandoned--that is, not just this year or next, but abandoned entirely--that this will likely signal not the success of outside political pressure, but a change in internal ruling family dynamics.  And, as I conclude, the practical political implications of this turn inward and toward allies such as Saudi Arabia--of Bahrain's going off the Western political grid, so to speak, which is the preferred option of the Khawalid and other conservatives--will be most unwelcome both to the opposition movement and the international community.

Finally, a few things did not make it into the post (which initially was written as a blog post here) that are worth noting:
  • First is this interesting electronic flyer from the February 14th folks announcing their "Operation: Ultimatum 3."  I'm not sure what happened with the other ultimatai, or whether they were heeded.

  • A second is this equally disturbing cartoon from the Sunday Times, which unfortunately we were unable to use as the header for the post.

  • Next is an article in Al-Watan by Faysal al-Shaykh titled "The Killing of an American Soldier in a Terrorist Bombing in Jufair." Meant presumably to be provocative and perhaps a bit threatening, it poses the hypothetical situation of a terrorist bombing at the U.S. naval base as a critique of America's ostensive support for al-Wifaq and the "terrorist" opposition. (Never mind that Sunday night's bombing like all others was carried out by the February 14th coalition.)  The tone is something like: "How would you like it if someone bombed your base?  Would you still support them then?"

    This editorial comes, notably, on the heals of another Al-Watan offering by Sawsan al-Sha'ir that threatened the emergence of an "al-Qa'ida in Bahrain" if the U.S. were to "attempt to enable radical Shi'a groups."
Update: Presumably just to stick it critics, Bahrain and Formula 1 are reported to be discussing a five-year extension of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

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