Below, we take apart sentence-by-sentence an article published by the London Review of Books – “Bahraini oil, American water” – to show why the basic allegations of the article are so clearly ridiculous.

Although the article may not have been written by the LRB, we would take them to task for publishing such a transparently incorrect and contradictory article:

“Since 2011 the ruling elite, propped up by the best mercenaries that oil money can buy, have systematically hollowed out one of the Gulf’s most robust civil societies.”


The use of “mercenaries” to describe Bahrain’s long-suffering police, is only a first hint at how heavily influenced this article is by the rhetoric of the opposition.


This article continually gets carried away with “oil rich” hyperbole. Bahrain is not as rich in oil as many neighbours and as a result has had to work harder to establish a diverse and robust economy that provides opportunities for all citizens. This is just one example of the blatant prejudices that underpin this article; based on total ignorance of Bahrain or the region.


Bahrain has a thriving civil society, little-affected by the unrest. We would know because we’re part of it.


“…the al-Khalifa family and their backers in Riyadh have violently oppressed their way to survival.”


If similar rhetoric to that found throughout this article had been used to attack the British Royal Family, many Britons would have been rightly offended at this attack on an institution so closely entwined with their national identity. A bit of respect, please.


For a little bit of perspective on this thesis of “violent repression”, see our analysis of the death toll in Bahrain, to show how the opposition has falsely circulated this myth of violent repression, as well as their highly inaccurate twisting of the facts. In fact, over the past two years there have only been five regrettable fatalities of rioters in confrontations with police. Over the same period, eight police have been killed by rioters.


The writer will of course be unable to produce a shred of evidence for any kind of direct Saudi involvement in managing the unrest. The stated mandate of GCC forces is restricted to protecting essential institutions.


“…the country’s disempowered Shiite minority…”


This is a myth propagated by the opposition. Nearly half the Parliamentary seats were held by Al-Wefaq Islamic Society, which is led by Shia clerics – prior to their walk-out from Parliament. But even now, the Shia-Sunni balance in Parliament is close to 50-50; as is the case with the appointed upper house, led by a Shi’ite. Shia have always held several ministerial posts, and in several Government departments they are a clear majority.


“Bahrain’s rulers have tried to reframe the dispute as rooted in reactionary religiosity, claiming that calls for democracy are distractions from aspirations to an Iranian-style theocracy.”


Al-Wefaq’s leaders are a clique of Ayatollahs and clerics with pro-Iran leanings; for example, Sheikh Ali Salman and spiritual leader Ayatollah Issa Qassim. Prior to 2011, all their protest marches used to feature Hezbollah flags and huge images of Iran’s clerical leadership. Substantial shipments of Iranian arms and explosives have recently been impounded in Bahrain and Iran-sponsored media outlets keep up a non-stop barrage of sectarian incitement. Iranian leadership figures have called for Bahrain to be annexed as Iran’s “14th province”. Not enough reason to be worried?


“…authorities in Manama have set about targeting Shiites, institutionalising torture and dispensing collective punishment.”


This hyperbole is simply a rehash of false opposition propaganda. After the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report; Bahrain’s authorities acknowledged its findings, including incidences of torture and took measures to outlaw such practices; such as a new Code of Conduct for police, extensive retraining and CCTV cameras in interrogation rooms of police centres.”


“Bahrain is now an apartheid state”


Describing Bahrain as an apartheid state is simply an insult to those who have suffered under real apartheid regimes. The London Review of Books are in the wrong for their editorial staff to have allowed such a comment to pass.


Bahrain has a remarkably diverse society where the religious and ethnic rights of all are protected in the Constitution


“…roving bands of security forces curtailing Shiite movements, routinely cloaking villages in tear gas, and rounding up protesters.”


This language is simply silly and bears no resemblance to what is happening in Bahrain. Remember that in this tiny country, many of these protest hotspots are on our doorsteps, so we get to see what is happening; particularly when masked thugs ambush and attack lightly protected police patrols.


“Police have detained hundreds of people, most of them young boys who pass their time with an eye toward every evening’s nine o’clock clash with the police.”


On occasions, if youths are actively involved in rioting and violence towards police and civilians – as this quote acknowledges – then they inevitably have to be taken into custody for their own safety and the safety of others. There is a real problem here in Bahrain with the brain-washing and radicalization of young people who have no understanding of the political situation.


“…British officials have also resisted calls to reflect more critically on their close ties to the al-Khalifa.”


Britain’s Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee spent months investigating the UK’s policy towards Bahrain. The report can be found here. Unsurprisingly, the findings of this report bear no resemblance to the emotional and hyperbolic ramblings of this article.


“Regimes in Manama and Riyadh are said to be the least bad actors in a difficult neighborhood, the best partners the West can hope for.”


It’s not up to Western nations to determine who is in power in these countries. They do business with the legitimate rulers and should not be in the game of regime change of those they don’t like. So drop the neo-colonialist attitude!


Do not talk about Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as if they are identical. Bahrain has an elected Parliament and a Constitutional Monarchy. Saudi Arabia does not. Bahrain has a flourishing, diverse and tolerant society where all enjoy equal rights.


“Formula One drivers and organisers are fêted by Bahraini magnates who pour cash into the coffers of global sport in an effort that is partly about managing the regime’s public relations image.”


There is something distasteful about the allegation that Bahrainis don’t have a right to enjoy the Grand Prix, while in countries like China, South Africa, the US, Mexico, India, the UAE etc, it’s not an issue.

The Grand Prix is good for Bahrain; it provides hundreds of jobs, supports hundreds of businesses and so rich and poor benefit from the huge boost to our economy.

“Formula One’s officials say the crackdown on dissent is none of their business, even though they not only help to prop up the tyranny, but profit from it.”


Words like “tyranny” do not fit with a Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy. This article is written as if it’s by a first-year undergraduate studying politics for the forst time, getting carried away with all the big words, but with no understanding of the way the world works.


“…Manama’s iron fist will lead to radicalisation and future threats to regional stability, or even future generations of terrorists.”


“Iron fist”???!! This is not Syria. The writer makes a legitimate point about the growth of radicalization, but with no grasp of how the opposition leadership has been activist in radicalizing its supporters to the degree that killing policemen appears acceptable.


“Bahrain’s protest movement has not embraced widespread violence, though police have been killed by bombs, and there are threats of more to come.”


So the protest movement is non-violent, but has no problem with blowing-up policemen? Have the editors of this piece informed the writer about how self-contradictory this sentence is? Was this article even edited for basic levels of coherence?

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