Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa meets with David Howell, British Minister of State at Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The psychology of a state often mirrors the thought process of an individual, generating similar problems as a result of their connectivity. When confining a belligerent friend, "key strategic partner" or "long-standing ally," an individual must choose between ignoring, enabling and reforming their behavior. Washington, London and Manama find themselves trapped in this dilemma, publicly inclined to "helping each other" while their policies implode under their suppressive weight. Using the visit of Lt. General Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa, Bahrain's Interior Minister, as a formal loophole to support the island regime, London brushed aside external criticism of its receptive welcome and disseminated new propaganda through the British media.
"[Her Majesty's Government's] policy is that Bahrain is a long-standing ally who has embarked on a process of reform. We want to help them along this path for the long-term stability of the kingdom and wider region."
According to records of Al-Khalifa's meetings, the British government is "keen to share lessons learnt from our experience in Northern Ireland." Unfortunately this comparison is both flawed and ignored by London. First, organized conflict in Ireland burnt out over decades of military and political developments; Bahrain's current unrest is relatively young, contains numerous geostrategic narratives and is far from a permanent resolution. Beyond inherent dissimilarities, London is also ignoring basic lessons of fourth-generation warfare (4GW) found within Ireland's conflict. Unwilling to support the opposition's fundamental grievance of under-representation, Washington and London are both guilty of attempting to prematurely end the uprising through a series of limited reforms and commissions.
This one-sided policy lacks any semblance of true COIN and has contributed to the growing divide between the monarchy and opposition, fueling anti-Western sentiment in the process. John Yates, the former Met assistant commissioner acting as a security adviser to King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, would join Bahraini Ambassador Alice Samaan for meetings with four senior Bahraini officials. Following April Formula-1 race outside Manama, Yates published a Telegraph "op-ed" that began by repeating the kingdom's obligation to improve its governance. Yet the duplicitous tone of his scathing counterattack on the international media is readily apparent. Yates claims that Bahrainis are, "Bewildered at the level of ignorance about what is really happening here, at the level of animosity and bile, at the media bias."
"And bewildered that so many in the UK, a long-standing friend and ally for two centuries, could so readily swallow everything opposition groups and activists were saying."
As if Western governments aren't lapping up the monarchy's biased version of Bahrain's uprising - Al-Khalifa claims that his security units "never" use excessive force. On the same day that Yates and other British officials met with the Interior Minister, who denies ordering his security forces to shoot Al-Wefaq's leadership, 28 countries gathered at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to "express concern" over the situation. Washington and London couldn't bring themselves to join the group despite the fact that the UNHRC's joint statement regurgitated their own political lines. Western media and lobbyist groups have also been contracted to slander the opposition, a tactic that the street movement cannot utilize.
With these developments already underway, London is now building on U.S. condemnation of three alleged "terror dens" by sending extra forensic personnel to the island. Elements of the devices, some containing hundreds of iron balls, will be shipped back to Scotland Yard for additional investigation. British officials and "counterterrorism experts" have characterized the purported discovery as a "significant escalation... almost at the level and style of the dissident IRA," and this specific find may reach that level. However British officials are shadowing accusations made by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa's government, creating an escalation of equal force in the international media.
Iran and Hezbollah still play the leading antagonists in this plot, which remains the monarchy's primary narrative for delegitimizing the opposition. One anonymous "senior police official" called the devices "a game changer" that "could not have been put together without help from outside the country." Although King Hamad's own "Independent Commission of Inquiry" found no Iranian involvement in Bahrain's protests, he and his royal officials continue to hide behind the false threat of an Iranian-led takeover. State media also links the three suspects involved with the bomb labs to Hezbollah.
This connection slices both ways: the street and formal opposition is immediately demonized regardless of the truth. Byproducts of the monarchy's information/disinformation are then used to patch any small holes in its Western wall.
Bahrain's opposition clearly sees the new storm clouds moving over Manama's horizon. Already subjected to continual harassment and abuse, protesters and activist leaders realize that the monarchy has no interest in fulfilling their demands for greater representation. They expect new political attacks at any moment and generally accept the reality that militarization will continue subverting a genuine political resolution. Knowing that the regime will use any tactic to undermine their moral position, Al Wefaq issued a statement to denounce the "making bombs as "wholly unacceptable," adding that the group "condemned any violence in the past, present or future." The King would beg to differ, but his hollow outreach and repressive policing of Bahrain's youth is designed to turn the oppositional network against itself.
"We find it hard to trust this government as they have fabricated claims in the past," Al Wefaq added, a skeptic note that applies equally to certain Western capitals.