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Entries in Justin Gengler (10)


Bahrain Analysis: 5-Point Guide to Crown Prince's "Return to Dialogue" (Gengler)

Crown Prince Salman's speech at the Manama Dialogue last Friday

How fitting it would be if Bahrain's uprising were finally resolved in the same manner in which it originally was not resolved --- with a political deal brokered by the Crown Prince --- an appropriately absurd result to highlight even more starkly how far the turmoil, bloodshed, and political posturing of the previous two years accomplished *literally* nothing.

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Bahrain Live Coverage: Shutting Away Political Prisoners, Shutting Away the News

One of Amber Lyon's reports from Bahrain for CNN, whom she now accuses of shutting away her award-documentary (see 0735 GMT)

See also Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Free Syrian Army Tries to Re-Structure and Assert Control
Tuesday's Bahrain Live Coverage: Will High-Profile Activists Receive Court Verdicts Today?

1445 GMT: Bahrain Yesterday in the British House of Commons, Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander MP questioned Foreign Secretary William Hague over Bahrain:

Mr Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) (Lab): The Bahraini Government have long claimed their determination to pursue the path of reform and reconciliation, but only yesterday it emerged that the retrial of 20 activists and Opposition figures had resulted in all of them being found guilty, with long sentences and, in the case of eight defendants, life sentences. In light of this, can the Foreign Secretary set out the British Government’s judgment as to whether these were fair trials? More widely, what is his assessment of the Bahraini Government’s commitment to reform and reconciliation?

Mr Hague: I am very disappointed at the Bahraini civil court’s decision to uphold all the sentences of 20 political activists in Bahrain. We welcome the decision to review these cases in a civilian court but we remain very concerned by some of the charges that defendants were convicted of, and I urge the Bahraini Government to ensure that the human rights and freedoms of their citizens are fully upheld at all times. We are aware that the defendants can now appeal to a further court and we hope that this will be conducted thoroughly, with urgency and with due legal process. That will be one of the tests of the Bahraini Government’s commitment to reform.

Whilst the question was likely prompted by Tuesday's verdict in the trial of 20 activist, its timing also suggests the possibility that Labour may be seeking to make a wider issue of the British Government's controversial support for Bahrain. Up to now, Labour MPs like Jeremy Corbyn and Dennis MacShane have been vocal critics of the Bahrain regime, buut the leadership has been comparatively quiet. Alexander and Labour leader Ed Miliband were last vocal in April, when they both called for the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Bahrain to be cancelled.

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Bahrain Feature: The Stalling of Economic Reforms (Hammond)

Bahrain's economic reforms --- once hailed as the most ambitious in the Gulf --- seems to have stalled as hardliners in the Sunni ruling family who see Shi'ite protesters as a threat to the state bring the programme under their wing.

Stalling the reforms has involved replacing the heads of key institutions and altering their remits. And the process has the added advantage of reinforcing patronage networks stemming from resources under the control of powerful figures in the state.

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Bahrain Analysis: Are the Sunni Movements Still Awake? (Gengler)

National Day Rally, 16 December 2011More than sixteen months have passed since the start of Bahrain's Sunni Awakening, the mass political mobilization of Sunni citizens launched exactly one week into last year’s Shi‘a-led uprising. While the unprecedented scale of the counter-movement was and still remains clear (supporters famously, if implausibly, claimed attendance of more than 300,000), what exactly it represented is as much a puzzle now as it was then.

More than a year later, these platforms remain ambiguous. Does the post-February explosion of popular political enthusiasm in this only-too-recently apolitical community represent a genuine shift in Bahrain’s political landscape? Or is the mobilization tied somehow to existing Sunni political powers—or even to the state itself?

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Bahrain Analysis: The Anti-National Dialogue (Gengler)

The vast majority of those involved in the street movement could care less about any dialogue involving the government and [the opposition society] al-Wefaq, and indeed may simply be incited by it to act even more violently. Although one would imagine that this is already the operating assumption of all parties, the fact that the government is even willing to talk to al-Wefaq implies that both sides believe the latter can ensure the acquiescence of "the street" in the event of any agreement. Anyone taking bets on that? Because I want in.

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Bahrain Feature: What Has Changed in the Past Year? (Gengler)

Casual reporting of Bahrain's uprising tends to give the impression that the events of February 14 and the year-long aftermath sprang out of nowhere; that Bahrain's Shi'a had finally "had enough" and used the window afforded by the Arab Spring to make their displeasure known, to spectacular effect.

There is no need to devote much time to debunking this storyline, deliberate or not, as any serious study of Bahraini politics would point to a long history of political conflict, whether between Shi'a and state, Sunna and state, or Sunna and Shi'a.

What was surprising about the scenes of February and March, then, was not that such an opposition would mobilize, but that it was able to mobilize on such an unprecedented scale.

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Bahrain Analysis: The Kingdom's "Sunni Awakening" (Gengler)

Sunni activist Mohamed Albuflasa, detained February 2010The Sunni state-vs.-Shi‘i rebel narrative, then, is not without substance. But its use as a framework for analyzing Bahraini politics, including the present impasse, obscures other important elements of the story --- even whole characters. The prevalent storyline tells little, for example, of ordinary Sunni citizens, who make up more than a third of the island’s population and are about as far removed from power as the Shi‘a. These Bahrainis have been no less decisive than the Shi‘a or the state in shaping the country’s political trajectory over the past year. Nominally pro-government, the Sunni population has functioned, perhaps unwittingly, as the foundation of the Al Khalifa monarchy, a captive ethno-religious constituency conditioned to care more for combating the perceived march of collective Shi‘i ambition than for advancing an independent political agenda.

Yet there are signs that the social forces unleashed by the uprising, and the wider Arab awakening, have made Bahraini Sunnis more cognizant of their perennial position as political counterweight --- and more resistant to it. The same grassroots movements that rose in defense of the regime in February and March are now daring to articulate reform demands of their own, albeit not yet with a coherent purpose.

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Bahrain Analysis: Will 2012 Be Just Like 2011? (Gengler)

An opposition rally in Sitra in Bahrain on 5 January --- the crowd chants, "Down Down [King] Hamad"

As Bahrain approaches the one-year anniversary of the February uprising, neither the formal opposition in al-Wifaq et al., nor the youth-dominated street movement, shows signs of losing interest in pursuing fundamental political change. Indeed, February 14, 2012, will carry more symbolism even than the same date in 2011, as it marks simultaneously the one-year anniversary of mass protests as well as the ten-year anniversary of Bahrain's 2002 Constitution, promulgated unilaterally by King Hamad and, for protesters, symptomatic of the latter's aborted political reform project promised at the outset of his ascension.

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Bahrain Analysis: Are Sunni Groups Moving Away from the Regime? (Gengler) 

Sunni Rally at Al Fatah Mosque, 16 DecemberThe prospect that Bahrain's three Sunni Islamic societies --- representing the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, and Sunni nationalists in the NGU --- might attempt to coordinate their political programs must be more than a little unsettling to the Al Khalifa ruling family. With a Shi'a-led opposition the state knows how to deal; concerted political mobilization among Bahraini Sunnis is a much more novel --- and more dangerous --- development.

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Bahrain Snapshot: The Regime Tries An "Anti-American" Narrative (Gengler)

In a July 6 interview with Egyptian journalists carried in the Al-Ahram daily, a leading Bahraini revealed that his country's February uprising was "by all measures a conspiracy involving Iran with the support of the United States," the latter aiming "to draw a new map" of the region. "More important than talking about the differences between the U.S. and Iran," he insisted, are "their shared interests in various matters that take aim at the Arab welfare."

Who is this Bahraini conspiracy theorist? A radical Arab nationalist, perhaps? Or a leader of the popular Sunni counter-revolution that mobilized successfully against the Shia-led revolt? Not exactly. In fact, he is none other than Marshal Khalifa bin Ahmad Al Khalifa: Minister of Defense, Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defense Force, and, as his name indicates, a prominent member of Bahrain's royal family. His outburst decrying American duplicity in Bahrain is but the latest in a string of similar incidents and public accusations that once more raise the question of political radicalization in Bahrain. But this time, in contrast to the usual narrative, the radicalization is not emanating from the country's Shia majority.

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