Posts Tagged ‘Bahrain’

Arab spring withering into autumn

June 23, 2011

The prospects and hopes and expectations of the Arab spring spreading throughout the Arab world are now becoming uncertain. In Tunisia and Egypt the military is firmly in control and whether a real shift of power to the people will now take place remains in doubt. There is still hope and the change itself is irreversible but how far the change will go remains to be seen. It will only be by attacking the high unemployment and endemic corruption that a measure of success can be achieved.

But the fires lit by the events in Tunisia and Libya are struggling to stay alight in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. In Saudi Arabia the government has so far managed to douse even the smallest sparks that were flickering.

In Bahrain the King with the help of the Saudis is suppressing all opposition from the Shia majority:

The sentencing of 21 men to prison terms ranging from two years to life has sent waves of anger through the majority Shia community in Bahrain. Family members say they have already experienced weeks and months of anxiety about loved ones, to whom they have been given little access.

They say the men have been tortured, denied appropriate legal representation, and are now being sentenced harshly for crimes they did not commit in a bid to silence opposition calls for reform.

In Yemen:

Opposition figures blamed pro-government military officials for allowing more than 60 suspected members of al-Qaida to escape Wednesday from a Yemeni prison. The mass escape from the prison occurred Wednesday in the southern city of Mukalla.

Opposition leaders blamed senior military officials loyal to embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh for the prison break. They said it was an effort to get financial support from Washington and prop up the regime of the Yemeni president, the Yemen Post reports.

As the Hindu puts it:

Yemen, in many ways, is the most complicated situation. It is infested with the maximum external interference — Saudi Arabia, U.S., Iran, GCC and assorted countries. At one time, its long-serving President had accepted the principle of resigning and leaving, but since seems to have changed his mind. The injuries he suffered in an attack on his compound and consequent flight to Saudi Arabia have paradoxically given him time to consolidate his position and strengthen his support base in Yemen. The south wants to secede and parts of north want to merge with the big northern neighbour, but the latter is not interested, it seems. The Shia-Sunni act is also being played out there. Al-Qaeda was reported to have captured a town, Zinjibar, in the south, but it was suspected to be a diabolical move of the President who, thereby, calculated to win the sympathy of the Americans. The latter are exploiting the situation and relentlessly bombing suspected concentrations of the al-Qaeda, hoping to eliminate its leadership.

In Libya things are getting very messy and the NATO efforts sans the US is less than impressive:

Libya has turned out to be the cry of despair for those who have committed their armed personnel, scarce financial resources and, more importantly, prestige in the outcome of the situation there. The conflict has gone on for longer than anyone expected and is costing the western nations more than they would really care to spend. Having pushed through Resolution 1973 with the help of the Arab League, they had calculated a quick and low-cost operation. Like in Afghanistan, Nato cannot afford to pull out without being able to claim victory. Two or three factors have frustrated their plans — Muammar Qadhafi’s stubborn refusal to disappear from the scene, the absence of an identifiable and credible alternative leadership, and the continued loyalty of many African states to Mr. Qadhafi. Mr. Qadhafi is no doubt counting on the fatigue — financial and military — factor weakening public support for the Nato operation. Nato strikes killing civilians will further erode support and provide more propaganda ammunition to Mr. Qadhafi.

And in Syria an embattled Assad is balancing between cosmetic reforms and a ruthless and bloody repression of his opponents:

Tens of thousands of Syrians are demonstrating in support of the president a day after pro-democracy protesters rejected his speech. President Bashar Assad vowed reform in a speech Monday that was only his third public appearance since the revolt against his family’s 40-year-rule erupted in March.

But his vague overtures to a pro-democracy uprising fell flat with the opposition, and anti-government protesters took to the streets shouting “Liar!” and demanding his ouster. Thousands of people carrying Assad’s pictures took to the streets of Damascus on Tuesday, pledging allegiance to the president.

….  The opposition estimates more than 1,400 Syrians have been killed and 10,000 detained as Assad unleashed his military and security forces to crush the protest movement that erupted in March, inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, and that spread to region after region.

There is now a real possibility that the  fresh green  Arab Spring which promised so much just a few months ago may wither into an Arab Autumn and millions may have to withstand a dormant and repressive period before a new Spring finally arrives.

But this new season will surely come.

Saudi troops invade Bahrain

March 14, 2011

While the world’s attention is focused on Japan, Saudi Arabia has taken the opportunity to invade Bahrain to support their vassal rulers there.

Reuters reports:

Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain on Monday to help put down weeks of protests by the Shi’ite Muslim majority, a move opponents of the Sunni ruling family on the island called a declaration of war.

Analysts saw the troop movement into Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, as a mark of concern in Saudi Arabia that concessions by the country’s monarchy could inspire the conservative Sunni kingdom’s own Shi’ite minority.

About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain to protect government facilities, a Saudi official source said, a day after mainly Shi’ite protesters overran police and blocked roads.

“They are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force that would guard the government installations,” the source said, referring to the six-member bloc that coordinates military and economic policy in the world’s top oil-exporting region.

….

Bahraini opposition groups including the largest Shi’ite party Wefaq said the move was an attack on defenseless citizens.

“We consider the entry of any soldier or military machinery into the Kingdom of Bahrain’s air, sea or land territories a blatant occupation,” they said in a statement.

“This real threat about the entry of Saudi and other Gulf forces into Bahrain to confront the defenseless Bahraini people puts the Bahraini people in real danger and threatens them with an undeclared war by armed troops.”

The move came after Bahraini police clashed on Sunday with mostly Shi’ite demonstrators in one of the most violent confrontations since troops killed seven protesters last month.


Saudi King Abdullah summons Bahraini King to receive his orders

February 24, 2011
King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. (2002 photo)

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz: Image via Wikipedia

That the King of Bahrain owes a sort of feudal allegiance to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is a reality on the ground. That the Saudis are most concerned about growing Iranian and Shi-ite ifluence  is also apparent. That Bahrain is “giving in” to demonstrators and – thereby – empowering the Shia majority is not a development that the Saudis like. That Bahrain may move from being an absolute monarchy towards a constitutional monarchy -or even worse- a parliamentary democracy is anathema in Saudi Arabia.

It is significant that the King of Bahrain, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, has rushed of to meet King Abdullah who has just returned after a long period abroad on medical grounds and can only be in response to a summons from his feudal lord. But Sheikh Hamad has a fine balancing act to perform. He must assuage the Saudi fears sufficiently to prevent an influx of a Saudi military presence into Bahrain while at the same time continuing the relaxation of his regulations to pacify his people. Saudi Arabia has instead decided to bribe its people rather than make any structural or political concessions and has announced $37 billion of financial benefits.

File:Hamad-Bin-Isa-Al-Khalifa.jpg

King Hamad-Bin-Isa-Al-Khalifa: image from Wikipedia

From the Washington Post:

MANAMA, BAHRAIN – On Wednesday morning, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa boarded a plane to pay his respects to King Abdullah of neighboring Saudi Arabia, who had returned home after months abroad for medical treatments.

It was a trip that underscored the extent of Saudi Arabia’s sway over the teardrop-shaped island off its eastern shore, as well the prospect that the turbulence still whirling in tiny Bahrain could have outsize repercussions in its giant neighbor.

A day after tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out in Bahrain’s capital, the king is still under pressure from demonstrators who are demanding that he make democratic concessions or step aside. The Shiite-led protesters in Bahrain are demanding that the Sunni royal family grant them equal rights and an equal voice, and Saudi Arabia, home to Sunni Islam’s holiest sites, is worried that their campaign might give ideas to its own large Shiite minority. ……

……. “Saudi Arabia fears a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, an assistant professor at American University who studies Islamic movements in the Persian Gulf region. “It’s about empowerment of the Shia and what that might mean for Shia in the eastern province” of Saudi Arabia, she said, in addition to fears about Iran’s influence, which she deemed largely unjustified.

“In this current crisis, none of the solutions look good for Saudi Arabia,” Diwan said. “A crackdown in Bahrain would be destabilizing. A reform itself would be destabilizing, unless Saudi Arabia was willing to make some reforms.”



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