Can Bahrain Bear Consequences of Strained Relations with Turkey?
2020-08-14 - 3:02 م
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Since 2011, the Government of Bahrain has proven two things; the first is that its actions are not based on national logic and do not take into consideration public interest, and the second is that the sovereign decision of the state was handed over to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in exchange for financial support and political cover to crush pro-democracy protests.
Taking the issue of severing ties with Qatar as an example, we will discover that it is one of the most prominent evidence of these allegations. Three months after Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad visited Doha and requested financial assistance (Qataris say their government paid $1 billion to Bahrain after that visit), Bahrain announced the severance of ties with Qatar.
It was clear that the governments of Abu Dhabi and Riyadh were behind the issue of severing ties with Qatar, and that Manama was only implementing that decision. This issue is being repeated this time, but with a big country called Turkey.
Tensions with Turkey started since the fierce campaign led by the Saudi and UAE governments against the Muslim Brotherhood. The tensions escalated after severing ties with Qatar, as Turkey is considered the most prominent supporter of the latter.
Last December, we were surprised with a statement issued by the Bahraini Foreign Ministry in which it canceled the exemption of visa fees to Turkey ($60). In a surprising move (visa fees for Bahrainis were abolished in June 2017, in a sign of the development of relations between the two countries, but were returned again in December 2019), and in February 2020, the Bahraini Foreign Ministry announced that Turkey had raised visa rates to $77, rendering them the highest among Gulf States. The Bahraini Foreign Ministry also indicated that the decision would be applied to holders of diplomatic passports (diplomatic passport holders are usually exempted from visas or fees in a sign of the development of relations between countries).
Over the past years, we have read dozens of inflammatory articles against Turkey, but no one has taken them seriously, as most followers know that it was nothing more than a way to please the Emiratis, in particular, who bought a number of Bahraini journalists, who were clearly expressing Abu Dhabi's interests and defending its projects, especially in the Wars of Yemen and Libya, and the issues of hostility with Qatar and normalization with Israel.
The new thing happened after Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar's statement to Al-Jazeera about the UAE, in which he accused it of supporting anti-Turkish terrorist organizations in Libya and Syria, saying that his country "will hold the UAE accountable for what it did in the right place and time."
After the Turkish minister's speech, Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdulatif Al-Zayani and UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash made a phone call. Half an hour after the news of the phone call was published on the Bahrain News Agency website, the Bahraini Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the Turkish statements.
A few hours after the Bahraini Foreign Ministry statement, the Shura Council Foreign Affairs issued a condemning statement and so did the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. However, the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee statement one day following the incident was remarkable, since it called for stopping the economic and tourism movement between the two countries.
We have the right to ask who is affected by the suspension of economic and touristic movement between both countries, if such a decision is taken?
According to UN trade figures of 2018, Turkey's total exports to Bahrain were USD 299 million, accounting for 0.18% of Turkey's total exports, which amounted to USD 168 billion and $23 million that year.
In contrast, Bahrain's exports to Turkey in 2018 amounted to $245 million, accounting for 2.2% of Bahrain's total exports of $11 billion and $265 million, which means that the suspension of economic activity between the two countries will affect Bahrain more than Turkey according to the ratio and proportionality rule, but if we observe the state's finances, fiscal deficit and public debt, we will be facing an unwise decision that will worsen the economic situation.
If we go into more details, we will see that about 88% of what Turkey imports from Bahrain is aluminium ($215 million out of $245 million), and by looking at Alba's figures, we'll see that this represented about 9% of its sales of $2.424 million at the time, and if the economic movement stops, Alba's suffering will increase and its sales will decrease significantly.
2011 was a milestone in Bahrain's history. The Al Khalifa family wanted to crush the protests at any cost, thus it used Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but the ruling family does not realize the consequence of their dependence on these two countries. The Al Khalifa family sold Bahrain's sovereignty in order to crush its people, but it does not realize that it was, by its fateful decision, shooting its own foot. Today, it is forced to damage its economy and finances to satisfy Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.