Bahrain is the forgotten uprising. It does not seem to figure on the agenda of any state or party. Few still remember that the Syrian regime had also supported the suppression of the Bahraini uprising: it even supported the Saudi/UAE military intervention (Syria was hoping to win favor with Saudi Arabia and GCC members and to count on their support in a future suppression within its own borders).
Other Arab governments did not express any sympathy or support for the Bahraini people: the region is still suffering from the impact of the acute campaign of Saudi-sponsored anti-Shiite agitation. The Saudi regime was able to take us back to the times when Shiites were not accepted as legitimate Muslims. Al-Azhar, which is easily controlled and bought off, seems to have forgotten that it had officially accepted Twelver Shiites as “legitimate” Muslims.
Bahrain is a special case in many ways. It has always been ahead of other GCC members in political development. It was certainly not due to any kindness on the part of the House of Khalifa, but the Bahraini population has exhibited acute political awareness over the decades. It was for decades a venue of Arab nationalist and leftist political activism. Its press was livelier than the various bulletins of Saudi princes. Labor unions in Bahrain were exemplary models of courageous political activities.
Yet, the House of Khalifa took advantage of the eruption of the Lebanese civil war in 1975 to impose a rigid and repressive rule and roll back the previous political and social advances. The House of Khalifa, like the various GCC countries, took on the formula of replacing the British colonial sponsor with the American imperial sponsor. Once the US receives financial, military, and intelligence services from those reactionary monarchies, it commits itself to firm defense of those regimes against all domestic enemies. The US defended many of those regimes, not against the Islamist extremist of recent years, but against progressive and liberal groups as well. The US rarely raises its voice against repression by Gulf countries. The Obama administration could not even feign outrage at the repression in Bahrain.
GCC countries had also calculated that their rewards from the US would increase once they abandoned the Palestinians and built overt and covert relations with Israel (what would have the Sons of Zayid done if Hezbollah or Iran had dispatched, as the Mossad has done, assassination teams into their cities? And how would the world have reacted? One can even imagine the impassioned speeches of the US ambassador at the UN, and the fake humanitarian poses of whoever is serving as French foreign minister).
If anything, the US served as a cover for the Bahraini royal family. It not only tried its best to downplay the severity of repression and violence, but it kept invoking arguments to make Bahrain a special case. Somehow, the misnomer of the "Arab Spring” did not apply to Bahrain as far as the US was concerned. It is most likely the US that came up with the idea of forming a special royal commission, and it was most likely the US that nominated Cherif Bassiouni, who has proven his loyalty to US policies before.
The report basically accorded legitimacy to the Bahraini royal repression, and it never held the royal family and its political system responsible. The commission, had it been truly independent — financially and politically — would have held the King responsible and it would have relied less on the notion of “good guys versus bad guys” within the family. The commission should have also pointed out that Bahraini repression would not have been possible without US and EU cover (who seems to love and care for some Arabs while watching with glee the butchery of other Arabs).
The commission will be used by the Bahraini ruler and his US sponsor to suggest that the Bahraini government is open and transparent. A few foreign mercenaries will be punished and probably deported, and new foreign mercenaries will be hired. The Fifth Fleet won’t be disturbed. The royal family will continue to promote the myth of the moderate and sympathetic crown prince. This is the classic stuff of royal politics in the region.
But the Bahraini opposition has a chance to revive an uprising that is inevitable. Al-Wifaq has clearly failed: it can’t counter the acute sectarian propaganda of the regime and often goes on the defensive. It never takes decisive positions. The secular opposition has always been dynamic and resourceful in Bahrain. It can be revived provided the agenda does not compromise on the only solution to Bahrain’s problems: the overthrow of the royal family. The deep divisions in Bahrain are manufactured and expanded by the royal family. Notional unity is impossible in the presence of the House of Khalifa.
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