It seems that if you’re King Khalifa, you just can’t go wrong these days. The strategic location of Bahrain, a country that he rules with swift and bloody efficacy, has rendered him practically immune to not only public condemnation, but international sanctions as well. In fact, he seems like such an OK guy, he even got invited to the royal wedding in England. Let’s take a moment and talk about who this guy is and what this all means.
King Khalifa is a man who does not let his own countrymen serve in the armed forces. No, he is much too concerned about a military coup or sympathetic soldiers for that. He will not take a chance on men who could feel a certain level of solidarity with the people they were given orders to shoot at. So he brings in foreign soldiers. They must be Sunnis and come mostly from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both countries with highly trained and well-funded manpower.
In the most recent crackdowns in Bahrain he unleashed droves of Saudi and Gulf soldiers on his people who were then camping at Pearl Roundabout (since destroyed). Then he sent them street by street. A quick YouTube search or a look at this older article, shows, in graphic detail, the path of destruction that they caused. They randomly shot live ammunition and heavy artillery at peaceful protesters who dared to gather on the street. Even single citizens merely speaking out were put down.
Then came the sweeping protests and the guards in the hospital. The most popular hospital in Manama was put under Saudi control, who turned the 6th floor into their own private detention center. Nobody really knows what went on, or could still be going on, up there. However, we do know that these soldiers had no qualms about beating the medical staff and nurses trying to save anybody inflicted with “protest related wounds.” Many of those arrested have yet to be returned to their families and most fear the worst: that they have been executed and disappeared forever. With King Khalifa seemingly unfazed by the violence he unleashed on his own country, this is hardly an extreme conclusion to make.
Yet this did not stop him from obtaining an invite to the royal wedding in England. Funny how the same country that is so outspoken about Gaddafi’s regime and even sent military experts to help give advice to the opposition soldiers doesn’t have that same strict adherence to human rights violations when it comes from a country with strategic interests.
Not that any powerful nation has really spoken out about the massacres and bloodshed there. The U.S. gave extremely tepid condemnation even at the height of violence. France has stayed fairly mum and other countries in the Middle East have hardly discussed it. Many are now pointing out that Al Jazeera’s Beirut chief, Ghassan Ben Jeddo, has apparently resigned over the lack of coverage over Bahrain. It is said that he was furious that compared to Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, Bahrain was hardly covered. Perhaps this has something to do with the headquarters of Al Jazeera, which is Qatar, just a stone’s throw away from the island dictatorship.
Whatever King Khalifa is doing (read: giving out loads of money) it seems to be working for him. I know it’s hardly news to anybody who follows world politics that alliances and moral principals can be bought. That even countries as rich as the United States or Great Britain can be manipulated into undermining their core values for something as pithy as access to a region they already have plenty of key allies in. However, the West needs careful foresight in situations like these. If revolutions do become successful (and by no means are Bahrani’s giving up their dreams), there could be reprisals against the Western powers who looked the other way during their wholesale murders. It’s a lesson that Western powers are clearly trying to avoid in Libya. But if their focus becomes to narrow and they take their eye off the region in whole, they could be in for a rude awakening should the dreams for freedom in the Gulf ever become realized.