July 17, 2011

Al Wefaq Completes Successful “Dialogue”

Today, as expected, Al Wefaq dropped out of political negotiations with Bahrain’s government. The group’s delegates had gathered after Thursday’s session to submit their decisions to their leadership, exhausted by two weeks of anticipated resistance from King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. In a sign of how threatened the King is feeling, his “National Dialogue” systematically obstructed the opposition from every direction, degenerating what was already a pageant into a complete waste of time.

Khalil Al Marzooq, the Shia bloc’s spokesman in the negotiations, voted to withdraw along with Syed Hadi Al Mousawi, Sayed Jameel Kadhem and Bushra Al Hindi. On Sunday Al Marzooq told reporters that Al Wefaq had “tried multiple times to change the process,” leaving it no choice except to pull out altogether. Although the Shia bloc holds 18 of parliament’s 40 seats, Al Wafeq was allocated only five out of the 300 delegates participating in the “National Dialogue.”

Meanwhile pro-democracy protesters have endured continual suppression as they denounce the talks, instead calling for regime change. Al Marzooq admitted that the group is losing supporters by jeopardizing their political demands and lives.

"The Wefaq board decided to pull out of the so-called National Consensus Dialogue and submitted its decision to the Wefaq Shura council (upper council) for ratification," Al Marzouq told Reuters. "Wefaq tried with all seriousness to offer political solutions and it was always responded to with rejections, or it was ignored. We were a majority group in parliament, no longer present at their dialogue. Any dialogue without Wefaq doesn't have real value.”

In sum, the “National Dialogue” represents a decisive victory for Bahrain’s opposition.

The White House’s enthusiastic introduction of Bahrain's “National Dialogue” and Al Wefaq’s inclusion violated logic on multiple levels. First, negotiations were prepared to fail and destined to sink the U.S.-Saudi position into a deeper hole. Yet instead of keeping expectations low and building on incremental signs of progress, the Obama administration adhered to its usual rhetorical pattern by starting high and finishing downward. The White House then ignored the message Al Wefaq delivered before talks began: the group only joined to silence Washington’s call for dialogue.

“We entered the dialogue to help the country, to try to reform it from inside,” Al Marzooq explained on Thursday. “But now we believe that we have enough evidence for the international community that the authorities are not serious in reform... Nobody is responding to us. We cannot continue this, fooling ourselves and fooling the people and fooling the international community that this is a solution.”

The group’s last minute entry, hailed by the White House, “was calculated to avoid becoming a scapegoat for the failure of dialogue.”

This isn’t to say the U.S-Saudi line is about to slacken. Once the “National Dialogue” formally collapses, a whole new round of political maneuvering will cycle through international capitals, Manama and Bahrain’s streets. However Al Wefaq has played its hand wisely, choosing a deft international block and refusing to linger any more than its credibility could withstand. All sides are neutralized to a degree; Washington and Riyadh have been repeatedly exposed while King Hamad’s temperature continues to rise, allowing Al Wefaq to repair its image with the base and independents.

“The people are fed up,” said Al Marzooq. “We took a very brave decision to enter the dialogue while most of our people they don't believe in this dialogue. It’s too hard for you, if you are not convinced, to try to convince someone.”

Revolution is a grinding process, though, and victory can be short-lived. Al Wefaq and the rest of Bahrain’s opposition now face an unknown menace in the government’s response, and will confront new pressure from Washington and Riyadh. Although securely positioned to advance its platform, Al Wefaq is caught up in America and Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical chessboard. As Yemen’s revolution tumbles through Western interference from Jerusalem to Beijing, so too is Bahrain’s revolution outweighed by U.S. strategic interests.

Egyptians, Syrians, and Yemenis have already learned firsthand not to touch a murderous government’s “dialogue,” especially if sponsored by the U.S. Bahrain's example won’t teach them anything that haven’t already learned: revolutions are not “solved” by “political resolution.” Nevertheless, the Arab Spring’s revolutionary wave is riding a herd mentality. One of the movement’s main strengths, each revolution has found inspiration and guidance in the others, creating a unifying field of solidity. Given that Washington is exploiting “dialogue” as a means of control throughout the Arab Spring, rejection at any point of influence threatens the imperialist system.

With Syrians, Yemenis and Bahrainis rallying against government negotiations and foreign interference, Al Wefaq’s decision symbolizes a minor victory for the revolutions.

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