In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Bahrain topples its own people

Posted by seumasach on May 10, 2011

Pepe Escobar

Asia Times

11th May, 2011

March 14, 2011, will go down in history as the infamous day when the House of Saud launched – with full United States backing – a vicious counter-revolution designed to smash the Gulf chapter of the great 2011 Arab revolt. (See Exposed: The US/Saudi Libya deal Asia Times Online, April 2, 2011).

This is the day Saudi troops – with a token few from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – invaded Bahrain, theoretically at the request of the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty, to “help” in the crackdown on nationwide pro-democracy protests.

The word in Riyadh is that Saudi King Abdullah anyway is not running the (nasty) House of Saud show these days. That’s essentially a Prince Nayef operation now. The sinister Nayef, 77, Abdullah’s half-brother, is Saudi Arabia’s second deputy prime minister – apart from having being minister of interior for no less than 36 years. The first deputy prime minister – and anointed successor to the throne – is Crown Prince Sultan, an octogenarian who has been defense minister for 48 years.

If Sultan were to die and Abdullah immediately follow him – a clear possibility – Nayef the inquisitor-in-chief, with a stellar curriculum vitae of throwing any dissenters to rot in jail, censoring the press and regarding the rights of women and the Shi’ite minority as non-existent, would be the next Saudi king. That only goes to show that the House of Saud counter-revolution has not even started.

Break their skulls, no one is watching
Meanwhile, in Bahrain, state news agency BNA has announced, “The state of national safety is lifted across the kingdom of Bahrain from June 1, 2011.” That’s a decree by King Hamad al-Khalifa, who proves to be, in spite of himself, an admirer of English author George Orwell, as he characterizes a state of emergency as “a state of national safety”.

“National safety” in this case includes the state razing to the ground – with full Saudi input – over 20 Shi’ite mosques; the demolition of houses; the demolition of the Pearl roundabout – the symbol of the mass protests; and beating and jailing hundreds of protesters. The House of Saud’s Nayef best pal in Manama has got to be Bahrain’s Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa ibn Salman al-Khalifa, 75, who has held the cozy job for no less than 40 years – a world record.

In practice, what’s going on in Bahrain is a monarchy trying to get rid of its people. The tactics are straight out of the collective punishment playbook – as applied by the Americans in Fallujah in 2004 and the Israelis in Gaza for the past decades. The opposition to the al-Khalifas happens to be the absolute majority of Bahrain’s population, and is not exclusively Shi’ite, as the government insists on spinning.

No less than 24 Bahraini doctors and 23 nurses will have to face a military tribunal – accused of plotting to bring down the regime by force. What they actually did was to care for protesters heavily beaten by police and the army. According to Physicians for Human Rights, these doctors and nurses are so subversive because they have proof of how the police and army behaved like beasts.

Western corporate media’s thundering silence just goes to show how Washington and European capitals are complicit of the House of Saud/al-Khalifa dirty work. One can imagine the furor if this was happening in Syria; a United Nations regime change-enabling resolution would come quicker than a Nespresso.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) at least has had the decency to issue a report (see here ). Its deputy Middle East director Joe Stork too diplomatically has stressed the obvious; “the aims of this vicious full-scale crackdown seem to be to intimidate everyone into silence”.

Bring on the tear gas 
On Sunday, May 1, the day of the Osama bin Laden hit, Matar Ebrahim Ali Matar – one of the 18 members of the al-Wefaq party who had resigned from parliament in protest – was kidnapped by masked men after he was called for a fake meeting; a government spokesperson later said he “has been called in for investigation”. The same thing happened the same day to another Wefaq former parliamentarian, Jawad Fairuz, who had his house surrounded by 30 masked men.

Twenty-one other opposition members were also put on trial by special courts (military prosecutors; one military and two civilian judges), including Shi’ite dissident Hassan Mushaimaa, leader of the opposition group Haq who has called for the overthrow of the monarchy; and Ebrahim Shareef, the Sunni leader of the secular Waad group that called for a constitutional monarchy.

The accusation; an “attempt to overthrow the government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organization working for a foreign country” – that is, Iran. Seven others are being tried in absentia. Rights activists stress they could be all facing the death penalty.

Then there’s the new House of Saud/al-Khalifa sport of “smash the mosque”. At least 27 mosques and scores of religious buildings have been destroyed – including the 400-year-old Amir Mohammed Braighi mosque. Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdulla al-Khalifa, has claimed, “These are not mosques. These are illegal buildings.”

That’s the al-Khalifa icing on the cake after they virtually destroyed the Bahraini health care system (run essentially by Shi’ites); fired over a thousand Shi’ite civil servants and canceled their pensions; jailed scores of students and teachers who took part in the protests; beat and arrested journalists; and closed down the only opposition newspaper.

As part of the US/Saudi deal, Bahrain – and by extension the House of Saud – can get away with anything; all praise for the al-Khalifas for hosting the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. No UN sanctions or even a slap on the wrist; no no-fly or no-drive zone approved by a UN resolution; no arming of the “rebels”; no North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing; no burning desire for regime change as in Libya; no Tomahawk diplomacy; and of course no target assassinations.

For the moment at least, sizable Anglo-American investments in Bahrain are “protected”; as for the British merchants of death who sell hand grenades, demolition charges, smoke canisters and thunder flashes to the al-Khalifa repression machine, business can only prosper.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

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