February 17, 2021
© Photo: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Britain and the United States worked together to kill the Bahrain revolution of 2011 and its people’s long-held aspirations for democratic governance.
Ten years ago this week, the Bahraini people launched a daring, peaceful uprising against a despised and despotic monarchial regime. During the next four weeks, the Al Khalifa regime was rocked to its shaky foundations as hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets of the Persian Gulf island state.
What followed, however, was a crucial – if despicable – intervention by Britain and the United States which unleashed a wave of brutal repression – a repression that continues to this day. Without this British and American operation, the Bahraini regime would have fallen to a popular uprising.
At stake for London and Washington was not just the tiny island of Bahrain itself but the stability of the entire chain of Persian Gulf monarchies, principally Saudi Arabia. The Gulf sheikhdoms are essential for maintaining the geopolitical interests of the Western powers in the Middle East, for propping up the petrodollar system which is paramount to American economic sustenance, and prolonging lucrative trade for British and American weapons manufacturers.
If Bahrain were to succumb to a democratic uprising by its people demanding free and fair elections, independent rule of law, more equitable economic governance, and so on, then the Gulf monarchies would be “threatened” by example. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman are the other Gulf states which are ruled over by monarchs. They are all clients of Western powers, facilitating American and British military bases across the region which are vital for power projection, for example prosecuting wars and confronting designated enemies like Iran. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet base as well as a new British naval base that was opened in 2016. In short, Bahrain could not be allowed to attain democracy as that would have a domino effect across the entire region jeopardizing U.S. and British interests.
The democratic aspirations of the Bahraini people are poignantly apposite. The majority of the indigenous population are followers of Shia Islam with many cultural connections to ancient Iran which lies to the north across the narrow Gulf sea.