Al-Jazeera recently published an article entitled “Saudi & Emirati forces continue to police Bahrain”, by guest writer Amy Austin Holmes. Holmes attempts to highlight what she sees as parallels between Bahrain and Crimea through disingenuous and irrelevant comparisons.
Below, we analyze sections from the article, to show why it is so exceptionally misleading.
Saudi and Emirati forces continue to police Bahrain
“The eyes of the world remain fixed on Ukraine… Lost in public consciousness is another recent and ongoing incursion… in Bahrain”
The author tries to equate the situation in Bahrain with recent events in Crimea. However, there are no genuine parallels. Nobody is trying to annex Bahrain and the GCC intervention was at the invitation of Bahrain’s leadership – not with the intention of removing it.
“The Bahraini uprising in 2011 was, in terms of a percentage of population, by some estimates, the most popularly supported mass revolt of all Arab Spring countries.”
With such a small population (around 560,000 Bahraini nationals) it doesn’t take much to extrapolate some sensational-sounding comparisons. For example, the four police who died in the first three months of 2014, are equivalent to a death toll of nearly 600 police being killed in Egypt!
After the chaos and bloodshed in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and elsewhere; aren’t we done with talking about the “Arab Spring” as a positive thing? Bitter experience has shown that managed reform provides far better prospects for ordinary citizens, than the leap into the unknown of revolution.
“…the Saudis sent in their national guard, the Emiratis sent police forces, and the Kuwaitis sent their navy…”
To write about the Bahraini issue in this manner is to fundamentally misrepresent the nature of the GCC: The Gulf Cooperation Council is based on the idea of mutual assistance and support. GCC forces arrived in Bahrain to provide capacity for protecting vital institutions at a time when civil order had virtually collapsed, during March 2011.
This additional capacity gave Bahrain the breathing space it needed to restore stability, protect civilians and prepare the ground for National Dialogue and a reform process. Many Bahrainis feel profoundly grateful that GCC forces arrived at a time when they feared for their security. Nobody wanted Bahrain to turn into Syria!
“…about 7,000 American military personnel are stationed less than 10 miles from the Pearl Roundabout.”
What the author forgets to point out is that the Island of Bahrain is only 10 miles in width; so of course US military personnel weren’t more than this distance from the location of protestors! Not to mention that the US Navy were stationed in the location long before people even thought of protesting at the Pearl Roundabout.
“Although Bahraini leaders tried to claim the domestic unrest was an Iranian conspiracy, they could provide no evidence to support this claim.”
Let’s cite a report by the Washington Institute written three days before this Al-Jazeera article was published: “US intelligence assesses that Iran is in fact providing arms and more to Bahraini and other fighters in the Arabian Peninsula”.
With weapons shipments being impounded from Iran on the Bahrain coast and Iranian media outlets dedicated to inciting violence inside Bahrain, Iranian interference is no longer deniable.
“…Imagine Russian police patrolling the streets of Kiev at the behest of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich.”
GCC forces never came to Bahrain to forcibly reinstate an ousted Government. This example isn’t a sensible comparison.
“…the regime’s strategy of systematically shutting out journalists and outside observers, as documented by Bahrain Watch.”
Citizens for Bahrain have in the past made our concerns clear about restrictions on entry for respected media outlets. However, the fact is that every year dozens of journalists do gain entry to Bahrain. There will be many of them here covering the Grand Prix this April and prominent political correspondents like the BBC’s Bill Law visit regularly, many of them filing reports that are in part critical.
Bahrain Watch is an opposition organization dedicated to issuing material which supports its political agenda. Serious reporters should not be quoting them as a reputable and objective source.
“Given the lack of media coverage, we may never know exactly what the foreign forces in Bahrain are up to.”
This statement is yet another ludicrous assertion; given the presence of media outlets; given how the opposition publicizes every minor infraction on Youtube; given the substantial non-Bahraini population witnessing events and given the tiny size of Bahrain, meaning that nothing can remain hidden. This is not North Korea.
“…Crimea voted to join Russia, and Putin has announced the peninsula’s annexation. Similarly, for the past few years, there have been recurring rumors about a potential union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.”
This statement only deserves consideration from those who believe that the EU is a Franco-German plot for “annexation” of the rest of Europe. The GCC and the Gulf Union proposal, provide for a mutually beneficial relationship for opening up trade, strengthening coordination and ensuring that the smaller Gulf States like Qatar, Bahrain and the Emirates don’t fall victim to external aggression.
We hope that in publishing this amazingly silly article that sinks to the dishonest levels of Iranian state-sponsored media outlets, Al-Jazeera isn’t trying to play politics following the recent political tensions between GCC states. By politicizing coverage in such a way, at the end of the day it is the reputations of the media outlets themselves that become tarnished.