Except the only way to "defeat" Bahrain's opposition - without losing King Hamad's crown in the process - is the institution of genuine democratic reforms at the parliamentary and judiciary levels.
The King's latest moves are so predictably unjust that their "shock" should only exist as a sheer force, like ice water, rather than as a result of false expectations. Some defendants have already endured horrific conditions in Jaww prison and other confinement centers as they await a protracted appeal process. Seven are being tried in absentee for "crimes" that either fail to exist, or are legitimized by the revolutionary situation at hand. The idea of due process is absent before and after the final verdict, systematically destroying any possibility of a fair trial. All opposition parties, human rights groups and activists of consequence have roundly denounced the rulings as a total violation of justice, along with many of Bahrain's Western allies (out of coercion, not free will).
According to state media, "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain expresses its refusal of the statements related to the court sentences issued by the Supreme Appeals Court Tuesday, September 4, 2012 'in the case of "overturning of the government and communication with foreign entities along with the violation of constitutional laws.'"
As for the effects of Draconian sentencing, this act will produce the same popular backlash as Rajab's unjust imprisonment and further extend Bahrain's democratic uprising. Nothing short of mass slaughter inspires revolutionary action in the same manner as imprisoned leaders, who provide ideological hubs to rally the resistance around. In short, the quickest path to ending Bahrain's uprising involves freeing them and opening a convulsive negotiating process. The longest path unjustly imprisons and tortures them.
King Hamad is cunning enough to have stayed below the West's tolerance for this long, but the delusion of his inner circle cannot be permanently masked by tear gas and favorable media coverage. Tactical successes continue to be negated by strategic errors, ultimately playing into the weaker side of an asymmetric conflict, and the monarchy appears to be semi-sincere in its belief of invincibility. This overconfidence is partly responsible for Bahrain's current state of affairs, yet new examples crop up by the week. Overlooked in the aftermath of Rajab's sentencing, King Hamad's Eid-ul-Fitr address demonstrated just how defiant his regime is by speaking about the uprising in past tense. Revolutionaries mutate into "strife-mongers."
Now this pattern has resurfaced with laughable assistance from Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the King's hawkish uncle: "the kingdom has made remarkable political, economic, social and cultural strides regarding human rights, basic freedoms and civil liberties."
In conjunction with these hollow statements, the Secretary General of the Arab League arranged a high-level meeting to discuss the implementation of King Hamad's proposal "to create Arab court of human rights." The discussion was fruitful, according to state media, and again illustrates the hypocritical nature of Bahrain's counterrevolution. Throughout the Arab revolutions, Hamad and his royal circle have distanced their own plight as far away as possible, while eagerly entering the fray outside their borders. The King should fixate his attention on his own polluted courts before thinking about administering justice on an international level.
Given the cumulative sentencing of Bahrain's leading activists and the monarchy's corresponding rhetoric, Washington's response warrants a separate analysis that will be posted shortly. An Iranian-masked counterrevolution remains the driver of U.S. policy and, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, may be an unalterable factor in the conflict. Even those who are unfamiliar with the situation should be able to perceive the superficial nature of the Obama administration's reaction:
We urge the Government of Bahrain to abide by its commitment to respect detainees’ right to due process and to transparent judicial proceedings, including fair trials and access to attorneys. It is important that verdicts are based on credible evidence and that judicial proceedings are conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations. We call on the Government of Bahrain to investigate all reports of torture, including those made by the defendants, as it has pledged to do, and to hold accountable those found responsible.
We continue to call on all parties, including the government, to contribute constructively to reconciliation, meaningful dialogue and reform that bring about change that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis. As we have said, Bahrain needs dialogue and negotiation to build a strong national consensus about its political future, strengthen its economic standing, and make it a more prosperous country and a more stable ally of the United States.
Such sweet words would sound refreshing if they were true, but no reporter bothered to question the State Department directly and the White House couldn't be less attentive publicly, thus disconnecting both governments from the island's reality. Whatever price Manama pays for its mistakes and crimes, Washington will take an equivalent loss.