The current Arab counter-revolution is brought to you by the House of Saud – and enabled by the Pentagon. The Gulf has been plunged into pre-emptive war. After the initial euphoria of the great 2011 Arab revolt, the message of the Gulf kingdoms and sheikhdoms to Washington has been unambiguous – and effective; if we “fall”, your strategic game is in pieces. Once more, “stability” trumps democracy.
It’s hardly surprising to see Saudi Arabia – the home of pious Wahhabism, fanatic al-Qaeda, and hypocrite Saudi princes gambling, drinking and partying in London or the French Riviera – smashing a popular desire for democracy and human dignity.
The attached novelty is the invasion of neighboring Bahrain. For the House of Saud a pro-democracy movement in Bahrain today is a worse existential threat than the fictional possibility of Saddam Hussein invading the kingdom way back in 1990.
Saudi media may slam Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his lethal strategy against his own people. But Libya and Saudi Arabia are equals. Gaddafi has laid out the counter-revolution playbook; bomb the fight out of the protesters. His winning strategy is the same as Bahrain’s, with crucial Saudi help.
The Gulf plunged into pre-emptive war
As far as the inextricable Saudi/Washington nexus goes, democracy may be acceptable for Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. But it’s a very bad idea for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other friendly Gulf dictatorships. United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a close meeting in Paris with special envoy of the Libyan transitional council Mahmoud Jabril. They discussed “how to step up the level of US outreach”. This after the Barack Obama administration had coined the neologism “regime alteration” for its new Middle East strategy.
So “outreach” means talking to pro-democracy “rebels”, while “regime alteration” means endorsing brutal crackdowns against pro-democracy protesters. The proof that the policy is official is that Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant US secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, has been at the US Embassy in Manama since Monday – where he oversaw, live, the Saudi invasion and the subsequent bloody repression of the Pearl/Lulu roundabout (50 tanks, heavy armored vehicles, several helicopters). This is the fourth time Feltman visited Bahrain in one month.
The predictable Saudi-orchestrated counter-revolution has transformed demands for justice, dignity and equality into the newest, deadliest, incarnation of a Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian war, so that imperiled Sunni regimes may once again invoke the specter of a Shi’ite crescent.
From Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq to Hezbollah’s secretary general Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon, not to mention the leadership in Tehran, naturally they had to raise their voices to defend unarmed, tear-gassed, shot at Shi’ite civilians. But this is not about Sunni/Shi’ite; this is about an across-the-spectrum desire for more justice, equality and dignity.
The House of Saud and the al-Khalifa dynasty have just fabricated a war out of peaceful protests in Bahrain. The head of the Shi’ite opposition bloc al-Wefaq, Abdel Jalil Khalil, has identified it as “a war of annihilation. This does not happen even in wars and this is not acceptable … I saw them fire live rounds in front of my own eyes”.
It’s never enough to repeat that Bahrain’s youth movement – at the forefront of the protests – is basically composed of students, liberal professionals and masses of unemployed. Young Bahrainis – taking their cue from the Egyptians – are saying, once again, Kefaya! (That’s enough.)
History is coming to get you
Judging by the way it is covering Bahrain – especially when compared to its wall-to-wall Libya coverage – al-Jazeera regrettably is now aligning itself with the Arab counter-revolution. That is, Qatar is also an accomplice. al-Jazeera insists what’s going on in Bahrain is just a “confrontation”. And it never refers to invading Saudi troops; they are “Peninsula Shield” forces, a stridently obvious Pentagon-style slogan along the lines of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, Qatar’s premier, has not excluded the intervention of Qatari “peacekeepers”. Nabil al-Hamr, a key adviser to Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa, showed up on al-Arabiyyah TV – essentially a House of Saud mouthpiece – to thank Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members for their military and “other” support in repressing Bahrainis.
And as an extra reward, Saudi Arabia will allow Qatar to appoint Abdul Rahman al-Atiyyah – the outgoing GCC secretary general – to be the next secretary general of the Arab League. This is the same Arab League which voted for a no-fly zone over Libya, but is mute on repression in Bahrain and pre-emptive repression in Saudi Arabia.
Bahrainis now have not only a dictator to overthrow but a foreign army to throw out. Sultan Qabus in Oman at least had the decency of talking to the local protesters and conceding more legislative powers. Bahrain’s al-Khalifas – especially the hardliners, led by sinister Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the king’s uncle, in power for not less than 39 years – offer nothing but bullets. The true public image of the al-Khalifas now is their policemen shooting unarmed protesters, as seen here.
The whole al-Khalifa demonization campaign is sectarian-based. On Bahrain TV – an al-Khalifa mouthpiece – protesters are painted as savages, gangsters and terrorists. And the government – as Hosni Mubarak did in Egypt – has unleashed its goons en masse.
True, Pakistani residents have been attacked at random with swords and iron rods in very dodgy circumstances. Hundreds of Sunni Pakistanis have been recruited for Bahrain’s riot police (they get fast citizenship as well as social benefits). Yet it’s crucial that the victims of these attacks have identified their assailants as similar to the baltajiyya thugs who wreaked havoc at the Bahrain University earlier this week.
Only two kinds of people in Bahrain have access to weapons; the security services – infested with foreigners, mercenaries included, and members of tribal families allied with the ruling Sunni al-Khalifas.
The pre-emptive war in Manama is the battle that the House of Saud, the emir of Qatar, the sultan of Oman and the wealthy Emirates fear having to fight at home. They have already proved they are on the wrong side of history. Their crackdown – blessed by Washington’s “regime alteration” policy – may work, for now. But sooner or later history will vacuum-clean them to oblivion.