Saturday, July 26, 2014

Brutish Bahrain

Bahrain's expulsion of the United States Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour shows just how brutish the sectarian regime in Manama is.

Tom Malinowski /
In the late 1950s one of the primary sources of consternation the Iranian regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi had towards the United States was the fact that the latter's diplomatic and intelligence figures were going out and meeting with opposition figures in Iran. Professor Abbas Milani's book The Shah recounts a comment from the then American ambassador to Iran, Selden Chapin, who, in response to pushes by the Shah for the United States to end such activity in Iran, outlined the following scenario in order to show the ridiculousness of ceasing such activities:

“What would the Iranians say, if their embassy in Washington were told to have no contacts with the Democrats?”

I cite this particular episode from Iranian history up for the simple reason that I was reminded of it when I heard earlier this month that the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Tom Malinowski was earlier this month told by the authorities in Manama that he was “unwelcome” in the island kingdom.

His offense, suffice it to say, is that he met with members of an opposition party. In politically authoritarian states like Bahrain attempting to get a pulse of how and what the grassroots really feels and thinks is, putting it very mildly, frowned upon. And Bahrain is quite a sinister case given the fact that the makeup of its authoritarian order is quite sectarian. The ruling al-Khalifa family is part of the kingdom's Sunni minority in which exists another small minority which does its utmost to marginalize and sideline the Shi'a majority. The sectarianism is embedded in a top-down order on many layers of the state and the society. Shi'a subjects for example find it extremely difficult to get even the most menial of jobs which are often instead given to foreign labourers. The regime has in the past even brought in Pakistani Sunnis to fill the ranks of the sectarian security forces and so forth.

Mr. Malinowski crossed the line as far as Manama is concerned, he talked to some of the majority of subjects which those authorities segregates and subjugates. This has seen to those authorities deem him as a meddler in Bahrain's internal affairs. Which in turn shows how sensitive they are when the flimsy façade they so eagerly promulgate of a harmonious Bahrain that is the victim of certain troublemakers, or an Iran-backed fifth column, who conspire purely in order to destabilize and debase it.

Feeling the actual pulse of the grassroots civil societies in such states is important for numerous reasons, most of which are obvious. A façade painted by obscurantist autocrats certainly isn't a reliable assessment or pulse of the actual situations on the ground in such states. Furthermore, when you have an entity like the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) it is important to garner a sound and accurate overview of the situation which actually exists on the ground in those states given the fact those monarchial regimes of the GCC are being propped up in part by U.S money and arms.

Recall the period in Iranian history I alluded to. This was around the same time the Central Intelligence Agency made its somewhat infamous assessment which declared Iran to be in the throes of tumultuous and revolutionary upheaval. However, in the run-up to the actual revolution that came in 1979 the CIA determined that the situation as it then existed in Iran didn't even constitute a “pre-revolutionary” situation.

So what changed from 1958 to 1979?
The Shah finally got his way when the United States, in the 1960s, agreed to halt all contacts with opposition to that monarchial regime in Iran. They therefore didn't have necessary feelers on the ground to forecast the storm that eventually did come and alter the geopolitical order as it hitherto existed.

And like the GCC states today the United States sold Iran a fortune in military hardware and becoming more ignorant to the internal situations in those countries. Indeed U.S Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel only recently suggested that Saudi Arabia and the UAE should solve its political impasse with Qatar (over its divergent foreign policies) by buying more armaments from the United States and integrating themselves into a large gulf military alliance to counter the threat they perceive Iran as posing. A regrettable policy for a country that prides itself on promulgating and advocating civil rights and democracy in societies where ordinary peoples lives and destinies are often plundered and destroyed along with the countries in which they live by the policies of autocratic despots.


Anonymous said...

as if any of the regimes of the nations of the Gulf are not brutish or dictatorial.

Anonymous said...

Same applies to the dictatorial islamic regime in Iran...only difference is that the Gulf monarchies, no matter their heavily religious societies, were always smart and made sure that friendly relations with the west were secured hence putting the wellfare of their respective civilian populations before all else... whereas revolutionary Iranians made a devastating mistake by declaring war and call for open enmity towards the US without the least bit of regard for the wellfare of the Iranian population.

Anonymous said...

of course it does. Iran is a nation of the Gulf and routinely imprisons, tortures and even murders opponents of the theocratic dictatorship