Trump Administration Sees Bahraini Crisis Through Saudi Lens, Lobelog

2017-04-25 - 1:54 ص

Bahrain Mirror: Throughout 2017, Bahrain's six-year-old crisis has sharpened and political space is narrowing as the authorities in Manama have upheld the dissolution of the Bahraini opposition's main group al-Wefaq Islamic Society and kept its leader, Ali Salman, in prison as punishment for "inciting hatred and disobedience and insulting public institutions," stated Giorgio Cafiero in a Lobelog article, noting that this month, Bahrain's king approved a constitutional amendment that permits the government to try civilians in military trials, and in January, Bahrain executed three Shi'ites found guilty of killing policemen.

"As tensions between Bahrain's marginalized Shi'ites and Sunni rulers escalate, the royal Al Khalifa family feels emboldened by Donald Trump's administration and its prioritization of security issues above human rights," highlighted Giorgio.

He further stressed that rather than pressuring Arab Gulf sheikdoms on governance issues, the new American president and his inner circle are determined to reassure US allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that Washington will take their concerns about Iran's foreign policy more seriously while enhancing US-GCC coordination in the quest to counter Tehran's expanding influence.

The article pointed out that last month, Rex Tillerson's State Department backed a sale of 19 F-16 jets to Bahrain after lifting any sales restrictions in place by the previous administration. Pointing to Bahrain as an example, Army General Joseph Votel told the House Armed Services Committee that weapons sales to foreign nations should not come with human rights-related preconditions that could threaten military-to-military relations.

"Although not enmeshed in a gruesome civil war, Bahrain is another area in the Arab world where the new administration is aligning Washington more closely with Riyadh to push back Iran's extended influence," Giorgio explained, adding that the Saudi government understands Bahrain's Shi'ite protestors and activists to be operating on behalf of Iran's regional ambitions, and the Trump administration seems to share Riyadh's view on this matter.

He also noted that to Saudi and Emirati leaders, concessions to Bahrain's Shi'ite activists threaten to embolden forces in the island-sheikdom committed to waging a Khomeini-inspired revolution in a GCC state, a perceived threat that the Council members find unacceptable.

"Despite some inflammatory rhetoric from Iran and the Islamic Republic's ties with certain elements of Bahrain's Shi'ite opposition, many in Bahrain's Shi'ite communities are loyal to their nation and/or tribe, not any foreign regime."

He further stressed that regardless of the peaceful nature of many Bahraini Shi'ite activists and the fact that many operate independently of Iran, the ruling Sunni monarchy's further narrowing of political space may push more Shi'ites toward militancy and foreign support.

Concluding his article, Giorgio highlighted that with the Trump administration doubling down on its support for the Al Khalifa family, the rulers in Manama are even less likely to make concessions to Shi'ites demanding political reforms and greater access to the country's resources, describing the situation as "a vicious cycle of marginalization and militancy diminishes the prospects for resolution of Bahrain's six-year political crisis."

Arabic Version    

التعليقات المنشورة لا تعبر بالضرورة عن رأي الموقع

comments powered by Disqus