The US, Gulf Kings and Brutal Repression in Bahrain

20 Apr 2011

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In Bahrain, brutal repression of pro-democracy protests continues. At least 31 people have been killed, four of them after they were arrested. Approximately 600 people have been picked up in raids conducted by the authorities. Many of those taken into custody face torture.

Saudi troops have been dispatched to Bahrain to help the Al Khalifa monarchy suppress the pro-democracy uprising.

There has been limited international condemnation of the suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain.

Paul Jay of The Real News Network speaks with Adam Hanieh, a lecturer in development studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and author of the book, "Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States." He focuses on the political economy in the Middle East and in this interview describes developments in Bahrain within the context of US foreign policy in the Middle East.

While the protests are portrayed as uprisings that promote an Iranian agenda (in an effort to justify the lack of international support for the pro-democracy front), in actual fact, these protests are not sectarian in nature. Shias and Sunnis are joined in their demands for democratic reforms.The demonstrators are asking for a constitutional monarchy and democratic reforms, says Hanieh.

The Saudi's sent their forces into Bahrain under the rubric of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC brings together six oil producing and gas rich states in the gulf, which include Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. It was formed in 1981 as a security umbrella, but since then its regional integration project has emulated the European Union. The GCC is dominated by Saudi Arabia.

According to Hanieh, it is very important to situate US foreign policy in the Middle East in relation to the GCC. This has been lacking in terms of speaking about the Middle East as a whole -- moreover, the uprisings that we have seen in Egypt and Tunisia cannot be understood without placing them within the context of US policy towards the GCC.

The GCC is the core of capitalism in the Middle East, contends Hanieh. It is the primary place where accumulation occurs. It is also the link with the broader world market. US foreign policy and Europe see their relationship with the broader Middle East through the lens of the GCC. Obviously this has got to do with the vast amounts of oil in the region. But its also got to do with the financial weight that the GCC has. It is a major investor globally.

The US has put an emphasis on putting military strength and political alliance at the forefront of its alliance with the GCC. The Centcom forward command headquarters, which is the military base that co-ordinates US military policy across the 27 neighbouring states (including Central Asia, Iraq and Afghanistan), is based in Qatar.

There are over 100,000 US troops stationed across various bases in the GCC. Most of the GCC governments do not make this public knowledge.

The US sees the governments in the GCC as their principle allies in the region and there is a symmetry of interests that exists between the gulf monarchy regimes and US policy in the region.

In the case of Bahrain, it is in the interests of the US to see the Al Khalifa monarchy in power and retain an undemocratic political system, concludes Hanieh.

Find part two of this interview here, which provides an update of developments in Egypt.

Find part three of this interview here, which examines why Qatar is so active in Libya.

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