Military Review

Six myths about the events in Bahrain

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The tragedy of Japan and the events around Libya have completely “hammered” in the information field what is happening in Bahrain. However, the events cannot be fully described - after the brutal dispersal of a demonstration on Zhemchuzhnaya Square, mass arrests even in hospitals, full-scale stripping by punitive detachments (including other states) of the Shiite and part of the Sunni community, that opposition speeches are suppressed. And these events have already become history. So, it's time for analysis and conclusions.

But before starting any analysis, one should “clear the ground”, remove the myths and conjectures that have accumulated around the opposition speeches in Bahrain.

1. The riots began suddenly, as a consequence of the Twitter & Facebook revolutions

I have already written many times that theories about the inevitability and victoriousness of all kinds of "colored" and now "T & F" -revolutions are one of the most stable myths that are carefully introduced into the public consciousness. This does not mean that T&F technologies do not exist. On the contrary, both the technology and the theory of such actions are not only deeply worked out, but also constantly replenished with new techniques. Another question is whether such technologies are “absolute weapons“How are we trying to convince? Of course no.

The scheme, which we are trying to hammer into consciousness, is as simple as a boot: there is a kind of “kingdom where everything is quiet and smooth, where there are no wars, no cataclysms, no storms”, everyone is happy and the only problem is that the rivers of milk do not come out from honey and honey. And suddenly (and the consciousness of conspiracy theories and pseudo-experts always presupposes this “suddenly, out of nowhere ...”) under the influence of some external manipulative technologies, a revolution occurs or, more terribly, a “revolution”.

Obviously, this view is most beneficial to the ruling elite. In this case, the notorious "hostile forces" can be blamed for everything. And to masterfully avoid talking about their own managerial mistakes, greed, short-sightedness, a policy of discrimination on the basis of nationality or religion, or about the loss of the instinct of political self-preservation by the ruling elite.

With reference to Bahrain, where Shiites make up, according to different estimates, from 65% to 75% of the indigenous population, it looks like this:

From 572 government positions, Shiites occupy 101 (18%);
Of the 47 ministerial portfolios, the Shiites own 10 (21%);
Of the 68 deputy ministers of the Shiite 7 (11%);
Of the 47 Shiite ministerial assistants 10 (21%);
The composition of the Royal Court, the National Guard, the National Security Service and the CIO (Intelligence) Information Services is formed only from Sunnis (the principle of 'Sunni only');
Shiites make up only 3% of the size of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the army of Bahrain;
In ministries where restrictions on confessional affiliation were less severe (Ministry of Public Works and Housing, Ministry of Health), there are limitations when appointing Shiites to leadership positions [1].

And even this representation of Shiites is perceived as a threat to the existing system and a sign of “Shiite’s desire to seize power,” as stated in the report of Nizar Muhammad Said al-Ani "Scenarios to improve the situation in the Bahrain in Bahrain noise that the authorities were forced to send al-Ani to the UK.

They sent it to him, but the Bahrain’s National Youth Strategy and Bahrain’s National Employment Project government programs adopted at the same time included measures to limit the economic opportunities of the Shiite community and to provide economic benefits to the Sunnis, up to support for young Sunnis who marry more than one woman.

No less dramatic for Shiites is the policy of the royal house to promote Sunni labor migration [2]. Sunni migrants take advantage of their jobs over local Shiites. After the 2007 scandals of the year, which broke out as a result of the promulgation of the facts of intolerable working conditions for migrants, the government took appropriate measures, thus ensuring its loyalty to this category, again at the expense of the Shiite community.

Sunnis also enjoy privileges in lending their own commercial projects, tax privileges and other economic preferences, which is enshrined at the state level by the relevant legal acts [3].

In my opinion, it is obvious that when 75% of the country's population is regularly subjected to all kinds of discrimination (political, economic, social), neither Twitter nor Facebook is needed for this whole mixture of social contradictions and powerlessness to flare up at once.

2. The opposition demanded a change in the form of government and the establishment of an Iranian-type regime

From the very beginning of the events, the Bahraini opposition openly declared that it did not intend to overthrow King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The purpose and the main demand of the protesters is the removal from office of Bahrain Khalif bin Salman Al Khalif (uncle of the king, who has held this post for forty years) and the entire cabinet of ministers. The opposition also demanded the release of political prisoners, the granting of large rights to the Shiite majority, the strengthening of the fight against corruption and the holding of early parliamentary elections [4].

It is worth noting that the opposition demanded a legislative formulation of the reforms and their inclusion in the form of articles in the Bahrain constitution, which gave the representatives of the Bahrain Cabinet of Ministers grounds to say that “oppositionists demand the establishment of a constitutional monarchy” [5].

As a number of researchers quite rightly point out, “In Bahrain, Shiites make up 75% of the population and support the reforms initiated by King Hamad Al Khalifa. They prefer the political rule of the Sunni minority to the Iranian form of government ”[6].

And here it is necessary to say that the Shiite community of Bahrain initially associated with the current king hopes for improving their position and supported his reform work at the first stage. Back in 1999, in Shiite villages near Manama, walls were covered with slogans that demonstrators chimed in the Pearl Square a few days ago:
“Parliament or destruction!
Death of al-Khalifa! (referring to the uncle, Khalif bin Salman, - comment by IP)
We are not afraid of reprisal!
The decision is in the constitution!
There are no Shiites and Sunnis, we are all an Islamic nation!
We won through sacrifice!
No - humiliation!
You can't put us on your knees! ”[7]

It’s another thing that the ruling house of Bahrain has applied and is making every effort to make the demands and sentiments of the opposition more radical, as happened in the parliamentary elections in 2010. When it became clear during the elections that the majority of the seats of the ruling Sunni coalition in parliament were not threatened by the elections, the government announced a “disclosure” of the Shiite spy conspiracy (of course, in favor of Iran) and practically banned the election activities of all Shiite candidates.

The election for the ruling coalition then ended in success. But today this success looks different, more like a Pyrrhic victory.

In short, “al-Khalifa’s Sunni ruling family has established an authoritarian order that excludes Shiites from public life and allows them to discriminate economically. They are freer than the Shiites of Saudi Arabia, where they constitute a clear majority, and such cruel campaigns are not carried out against them as they were against Shiites in Iraq. And yet, whenever they tried to obtain compensation for discrimination through legal, peaceful and democratic mechanisms, they were thrown back, repressed against them, and they were driven into despair by even harsher suppression by the ruling family of the Sunni minority. / ... / Since they constitute the majority of the society, their demand for democracy and equal opportunities is automatically considered by the ruling oligarchy as a threat to the existing order ”[8].

3. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries came to the aid of the government of Bahrain to protect the law

Perhaps the most accurate statement was commented by Die Welt: “The Saudi king defends his power in neighboring Bahrain: This is precisely what the Saudis, who have chosen to occupy Bahrain, are trying to prevent the reforms required by the Shiite insurgents. After all, these reforms would inevitably have an impact on the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the question of the legality and authority of the Saudi dynasty would arise.

The Saudi king has somehow come to terms with the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, but he does not intend to tolerate this in his neighborhood. The authorities in Bahrain should still be Sunni autocrats. As in Saudi Arabia itself. Saudis' double morality is too obvious. ”[9]

The events in Bahrain were a direct challenge to the interests of Saudi Arabia.

First, in Riyadh, it is considered that Bahrain is in the “zone of vital interests” of the Saudi royal house;
Secondly, the example of Bahrain could be contagious for Kuwait - another country under Saudi patronage. It turns out that there also has its own Shiite minority - about 30% of the population;
Thirdly, Saudi Arabia also has compact Shiite settlements, and they are located in the east of the country (not far from rebellious Bahrain) - in oil-rich provinces.

It should be clearly understood that quantitatively, the Shiite ummah in Petrolistan [10] (according to American terminology - the countries of the Persian Gulf) when conducting democratic procedures, that is, elections to representative bodies of government, will be able to seriously influence both the governments of Petrolistan countries and foreign policy.

The question of questions for any political system is the threat of partial loss of power. And it is abundantly clear that in feudal societies, which most of the Gulf countries undoubtedly are, attempts by any part of society (even the majority of the population) are perceived the same way as in feudal Europe: insurrection with the threat of the ruling dynasty. In the event of such a threat, there is only one principle: “Monarchs of all countries, unite!” What actually happened. It is not stability in the country, not law and order that the Gulf countries police contingent protects in Bahrain, namely the interests of the Saudi dynasty and the feudal order of things, in which "one monarch - one faith - and no democracy."

In the course of recent events in the Greater Middle East, the Saudi king promised to cut off his hands to anyone who strikes at the established form of government and the existing order of things in the Gulf region. The introduction of coalition troops in Bahrain and the brutal suppression of opposition speeches is a confirmation that his words do not diverge with deeds. Moreover, this is an illustration of how the Gulf autarky will act in similar situations in the future.

4. The United States had nothing to do with the events in Bahrain

What is Bahrain for the USA?
The territory of Bahrain is the base of the Fifth fleet, for the expansion of which from the US budget in 2009-2011 $ 580 million was allocated [11];
From the territory of Bahrain aviation and radio tracking of the territory of Iran;
Every fifth gallon of oil consumed in the world passes through the Strait of Hormuz, the key to which is Bahrain.

The loss of control over Bahrain means the loss of control over the strait (by the way, yielding to the US desire to arrange their stay in Bahrain most comfortably, the authorities of Bahrain, the only Gulf countries allowed open sale of alcohol). This is an axiom.

It was from this geopolitical axiom that Robert Gates, who arrived there on March 11, proceeded in his negotiations with the ruling house of Bahrain, on the eve of the entry of the Gulf countries into this country.

The details of these talks are unlikely to become known unless, of course, the new WikiLeaks happens. Moreover, they are trying to convince us that Gates arrived in Bahrain to persuade the ruling house to carry out reforms [12].

But the Shiites of Bahrain quite rightly perceived the visit of Gates as a threatening signal [13].

Exactly after this visit and negotiations on reforms in Bahrain and flashed.

It seems superfluous to repeat obvious things, but this will have to be done: the United States has a vested interest in the stability of any ruling regime. On one condition, this regime must prove its loyalty to the United States in respect of the American interests. Then he will be forgiven for any undemocratic actions, including open repression.

The old-new formula: “Name is a son of a bitch, but this is our son of a bitch” is what remains unchanged with all the owners of the White House. Only the names change.

5. Behind the events in Bahrain is Iran

In general, in my deep conviction, the “Iranian threat” quite successfully replaced the Soviet threat in world public opinion, and in its “popularity” is second only to “Islamic terrorism with its, as the classic wrote,“ legendary, mythical, and therefore non-existent ”Al -Kayedo.

Where the Shiites are, there certainly is the “hand of Iran,” this is an established stereotype. So it was in the situation with Bahrain. Newspapers were filled with headlines "Bahrain and the battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia" [14], "Bahrain in the flame of war between Iran and the countries of the Persian Gulf" [15], and so on. Well, since the Western media are a source of nectar for domestic observers, you should not be surprised at the enchanting statements like this: “Saudi Arabia was able to localize the protests at home and now wants to stabilize the situation with its neighbors. Other monarchies of the Persian Gulf are in solidarity with this - they fear the growth of Iran’s influence in the region. And, of course, this is an expression of solidarity with a colleague, with the king of Bahrain. This is also self-defense - none of the Arab monarchs wants the domino effect to spread to their countries. Therefore, the simplest option was chosen - comprehensive support to Bahrain, ”said Alexei Makarkin, deputy general director of the Center for Political Technologies [16].

From the pages of the newspaper such allegations smoothly moved to the speeches of officials. 2 March Hillary Clinton said in a speech in Congress that the ruling circles of the Islamic Republic of Iran are seeking to increase their influence in the Arab states that are in turmoil [17], specifically mentioning Bahrain as an example. “Iran is clearly interested in taking advantage of the unrest in the region for its own benefit and is exploring the possibilities of intervening in the current situation,” said US Defense Secretary Robert Gates [18].

The King of Bahrain, Hamad Al-Khalif, went even further, stating that the events in the country were the result of a conspiracy. “The external conspiracy was being prepared for 20 – 30 years, until the ground was ripe for it. Today I announce that these plans have failed” [19].

The origins of such an attitude toward Shiites (and, consequently, toward Iran supporting them) are quite obvious. “On the screens of Western radars, Shiites first appeared in 1979, leading a bloody revolution in Iran, during which thousands of people were killed, and the rule of Shah went down in history. In the eyes of the West, Shiites have become the personification of aggressive and militant Islam, seeking to export violence to other countries ”[20].

But in my opinion, this attitude is completely irrational, because it is refuted by real facts.

The Taliban created the Sunnis. They constitute the core of al-Qaida, if this organization really exists. In any case, the close ties of bin Laden with the royal house and the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia are a proven fact. Sunnis dominated the regime of Saddam Hussein, they appear in every report of acts of "Islamic terrorism." All Guantanamo prisoners are Sunni. These are the facts, but at the same time, the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia remain carefully preserved allies of the United States, and in no such unnoticed Shiites are recorded in the category of "eternal enemies." If this is not an irrational style of thinking, then I really do not know what then is irrationality.

Iran refused to export the Islamic revolution. Moreover, initially this export assumed not so much foreign policy actions as the construction inside Iran of such a society, which can be accepted by Shiites all over the world as a model of state and social structure. Not a single Iraqi ayatollah, who returned from Iran and is an authority for Iraq’s Shiites, does not call for adopting the Iranian form of government. Not a single slogan of the Bahraini opposition (as I wrote above) demanded reforms in Bahrain according to the Iranian model.

Moreover, there is still no convincing evidence that Iran provides support for weapons or militants. With the most superficial verification, this information is either not confirmed (as was the case with a message from Afghanistan), or it turns out to be the fruit of journalistic imagination (as is the case with inspection of a transport plane in Turkey recently).

The reports of the US Department of Defense on the "contours of the Iranian threat" [21] also demonstrate the same irrational approach. They state at least three main positions:

The current regime in Iran poses a threat to its own people, but to a lesser extent than the US allied regimes in the region;
The Iranian threat is nonmilitary in nature, since Iran’s military spending “is lower than the military spending of the rest of the region’s countries”;
Iranian military doctrine is defensive in nature;
Iran has extremely limited capabilities for conducting military operations outside the country.

Once again, this point of view of Pentagon and US intelligence community experts.

Consequently, all the talk about the “Iranian threat” is nothing more than a propaganda myth.

True, there is some delicate moment: I (together with Pentagon experts, oddly enough) state that the “Iranian threat” is a myth, and others (which, by the way, are the majority) are completely even an “objective reality”. Who to believe? Oddly enough - I do not urge to believe me. I urge to believe the figures of budgets and budget expenditures on military spending.

The absolute leader of the region is Saudi Arabia, whose defense expenditures in 2009 amounted to 32,654 billion, in 2002 - 18,5 billion dollars and 210,85 billion in 2002-2009. The defense expenditure ratio as a percentage of GDP is 8,83% in 2009 and 8,42% for the entire period of 2002-2009. (one of the highest rates in the region).

Israel ranks second - 14,9 billion in 2009, 9,68 billion in 2002 and 95,319 billion for the entire period. The defense expenditure ratio as a percentage of GDP is 7,65% in 2009 and 8,01% for the entire period of 2002-2009. (one of the highest in the region).

Turkey ranks third in the region - 10,883 billion in 2009, 8,033 billion in 2002 and 85,512 billion for the period 2002-2009. The defense expenditure ratio as a percentage of GDP is 1,77% in 2009 and 2,34% for the entire period of 2002-2009.

Fourth place is taken by Iran - 7,528 billion dollars in 2009, 3,14 billion dollars in 2002, and 49,041 billion dollars for the entire period. The defense expenditure ratio as a percentage of GDP is 2,28% in 2009 and 2,87% for the entire period of 2002-2009.

The fifth place is taken by Kuwait - 4,35 billion dollars in 2009, 3,48 billion dollars in 2002, and 32,095 billion dollars for the period 2002-2009. The defense expenditure as a percentage of GDP is 3,91% in 2009 and 5,39% for the period 2002-2009. Throughout the period under review, Kuwait consistently reduced the share of defense spending as a percentage of GDP (from 9,12% in 2002 to 2,69% in 2008). In 2009, Kuwait was one of the few countries that increased defense spending compared to 2008.

The sixth place is occupied by the UAE - 6 billion in 2009, 2,49 billion in 2002, and 30,9 billion for the period 2002-2009. The defense expenditure as a percentage of GDP is 2,61% in 2009 and 2,48% for the period 2002-2009.

Egypt ranks seventh - 5,851 billion in 2009, 2,48 billion in 2002 and 26,931 billion for the period 2002-2009. The defense expenditure ratio as a percentage of GDP is 3,11% in 2009 and 2,87% for the entire period of 2002-2009.

More clearly, these data are presented in the table [22]:



Well, where is the "Iranian threat"? What objective data is it confirmed? How does it come from the dynamics of military spending that Iran is ready for intervention or armed support for the Shiite opposition in the Gulf countries?

Iran’s policy towards the Gulf countries is based on the fact that these countries are the “zone of US interests”, and any actions in support of the opposition within these countries can lead to a sharp US response, to which Iran simply has nothing to respond.

Concluding the discussion of this issue, I want to draw attention to one fact related to Bahrain. 17 March, after the events on the Pearl Square, Iranian students in Tehran held a protest in front of the embassy of Bahrain. Among others, the representative of the Association of Islamic Students, Sira Zaimzade, spoke at the rally, saying: “We are ready to stand up for Islam and the people of Bahrain from the US conspiracy and Zionism” [23].

For many "scientific analysts," the words of the young girl served as "convincing evidence" of Iran’s involvement in the events in Bahrain. Well, it remains only to express condolences to the leadership of those states where such “analysts” serve the authorities and give recommendations to it.

6. Events in Bahrain are local in nature and are of no interest to the world community.

I am far from the intention to talk about the world-historic significance of the events in Bahrain. However, their results are of some interest for a number of countries (and only in the Gulf). Moreover, I believe that under certain conditions, the situation that has developed after these events in the Gulf states can play its role in further political alignments.

The main outcome of the events in Bahrain is, in my opinion, the aggravation of the contradictions between the Shiite majority and the ruling Sunni house. None of the social contradictions during the speech of the opposition was not resolved. The sparks of the long-burning conflict have been trampled, but does this mean that the source of ignition has been eliminated?

Of course, the ruling house of al-Khalifa will go to some reforms to remove contradictions. But now his opportunities are severely limited by the position of Saudi Arabia, which has confirmed its hegemony among the autocracies of the Gulf and which now does not want to hear about any compromises. The success of the Saudis, oddly enough, limited their ability to maneuver in the social field. The simplicity of policing the issue with the disgruntled (and even more so with the Shiites) is deceptively attractive. There is no need for reforms and dialogue within the ummah (and here the self-perception of the Saudis as "pillars of faith" and carriers of "pure" Islam must be taken into account) - it is enough to increase funding for army, guard and police units.

In the long term, this inevitably leads to a radicalization of the mood of the Shiite part of the Ummah throughout Petrolistan. Moreover, in the future, the Gulf countries will be limited to participating in any foreign policy or military action outside the Gulf territory. None of the monarchs would venture to send part of their forces to the expeditionary corps, having an immature Shiite community in the rear.

The lessons of Bahrain have a certain significance for the part of the Central Asian republics (I mean the countries of the former CIS), who have chosen the pro-American position as the main vector of foreign policy. Moreover, both for the ruling elite of these countries, and for the opposition. The events in Bahrain showed a “fork of opportunity” for the pro-American elites of those countries where the US military bases are located. Washington sanctions any punitive actions of regimes against the opposition. Moreover, it will provide these actions with diplomatic, informational and reconnaissance-sabotage cover. But on one condition - if these regimes are able to prove their importance for the United States. Ideology here is not decisive. The only thing that is important is how geopolitically and militarily significant is the presence in the region for the USA. If the ruling elite overestimates this significance as a key position - it will have an unpleasant surprise, like the one that Hosni Mubarak received. In this, American diplomacy is a worthy successor to British diplomacy with its Palmerston principle: “They only have permanent interests.”

At the same time, the same “fork of opportunity” is defined for the opposition: “if you want the authorities, prove that by possessing it you will be more useful for the USA than the old regime”.

I deliberately will not talk about some moral and ethical component of the “lessons of Bahrain”. In international relations, they do not play a noteworthy role.

The main result of the events in Bahrain remains that the Shiite discontent with the current state of affairs and the inability to change this state of affairs peacefully are a time bomb in Petrolistan. And with the slightest fluctuations in the political atmosphere around the Gulf, this mine will work. And without any Twitter as a detonator.


1 Zara Al Sitari Conspiring Against The Shia Of Bahrain (Bahrain Center for Human Rights, October 2006) | in text
2 “Migrant Workers in Bahrain & the Policies of Emigration Countries” | into text
3 http://www.bahrainrights.org/node/652 | in text
(Calgary Herald, Feb. 4, 20) | in text
5 Bahrain Opposition Demands Reforms (CNBC, Wed. Feb. 23, 2011) | in text
6 May Yamani: The Rise of Shia Petrolistan | in text
7 Graham E. Fuller Rend Rahim Francke "The Arab Shi'a: The Forgotten Muslims" (2000, RAND Corporation) | in text
8 Graham E. Fuller Rend Rahim Francke "The Arab Shi'a: The Forgotten Muslims" (2000, RAND Corporation) | in text
9 Die Welt: Saudi King Protects His Power in Neighboring Bahrain (17.03.2011) | in text
10 "The number of Shiites in the world at present" (Al-Shia.ru) | in text
11m upgrade for $ 580m upgrade (ArabienBusiness.com, 27 May 2010) | in text
United States Defense Forces (The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 11) | in text
13 Gates Visits Bahrain Amid Huge Protests (The New York Times, March 11, 2011) | in text
14 STRATFOR, George Friedman and the Battle of Iran Between Iran and Saudi Arabia | in text
15 بيضون لـ "الأنباء": لإيران دور كبير في أحدا البحرين | in text
16 Cit. by Gevorg Mirzayan: Not all revolutions are equally useful (Expert, 18.03.2011) | in text
17 US: Iran Increases Influence in Revolutionary Countries through Hamas and Hezbollah (News.ru.co.il, March 3, 2011) | in text
18 I quote from Gevorg Mirzayan: Not all revolutions are equally useful (Expert, 18.03.2011) | in text
19 King of Bahrain has built a conspiracy theory (Kommersant, 22.03.2011) | in text
20 May Yamani: The Rise of Shia Petrolistan | in text
21; 14; 2010; Unclassified Report on Military Power of Iran, April 2010; John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service, "Report to Congress Outlines Iranian Threats", April 2010 | in text
22 TSAMTO. Statistics and analysis of the arms market in the Middle East (materials for the Idex-2011 exhibition, www.armstrade.org) | in text
23 Iranian students will gather in front of the embassies of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in Tehran. IRIB World Service (Russian Service) | in text
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