Middle East — 04 June 2011
F1 Follows Obama’s Lead: “Essential” Interests Trump Empty Values in Bahrain II

Subsequent to the revelation that the British government was actively aiding and abetting the Bahraini regime against its own population, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is to be hosted by the White House less than a month after his reception at Downing Street.

Coming just a few days after the formal lifting of the State of Emergency on June 1, both the Bahraini regime and its Western patrons are keen to emphasize that a situation of normality has returned to the fiefdom. The leaking of the news of al-Khalifa’s visit to the United States comes soon after the announcement of the decision by Formula One racing to host the previously delayed Bahraini Grand Prix in October, itself coming on the heels of the lifting of the state of emergency in Bahrain.

Despite Formula One head Bernie Ecclestone previously claiming that he did not regard the sport as involved in politics, the Bahraini’s clearly have a different perspective with Chief Executive of the Bahrain Olympic Committee (BOC) Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa stating that the “reinstatement of the Bahrain Grand Prix to the 2011 Formula 1 race calendar indicates that life is back to normal to the kingdom and that security and stability are prevailing nationwide”. Iit is difficult to blame Formula One in isolation when it is arguably just following the lead of Western governments who have continued supporting the regime despite widespread human rights abuses.

Any objection to Formula One’s decision rings hollow while the ruling family is still being hosted in the corridors of power in London and Washington.

The political timing of the lifting of the state of emergency has been made clear, with what appears to be a concerted effort by both Bahrain and the United States to quickly rehabilitate the island’s image which has suffered since the uprisings began in February. The move was welcomed by Britain, the United Nations and the United States amongst others, with all parties urging a national dialogue and political reform as the only way of “ensuring long term stability” (as put by British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt) which for all intents and purposes means peacefully maintaining the status quo within Bahrain in order that British and American interests remain served.

One would imagine that the lifting of the State of Emergency would result in substantive changes, but as in Syria (where hundreds have been shot and killed while demonstrating since its “lifting”), the situation in Bahrain post-State of Emergency looks very similar to that during its implementation, including

firing upon demonstrators to break up demonstrations

– continuation of arbitrary detention

– troops from the Peninsula Shield Force remain in Bahrain remain, as do military trials

However, the lifting of the state of emergency has already achieved its purpose – to allow Bahrain’s patrons to act as though all is well with their ally, in an attempt to allow “business as usual” to continue after a period where the government has systematically attempted to crush all opposition through mass arbitrary detention, torture and sentencing through military tribunals, all the while creating the spectre of a sectarian struggle out of a movement against another of the region’s Western client autocrats.


Reza Pankhurst is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics, and also blogs at rezapankhurst.net.



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