British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomes Bahrain's King Hamad in London, 12 December 2011
Bahrain, along with Syria, has become a symbol of the failure of the Arab Spring to deliver real democracy and freedom across the Arab world. The media in Britain portray a rigid, oppressive almost feudal elite who are stubbornly holding out against the inevitable wave of modern freedoms and political justice.
But what is hardly ever mentioned in the press and TV reports is that this very system of oppression, the rock against which the dreams of democracy are being dashed, was largely created by the British. That, throughout most of the twentieth century, British advisers to the Bahraini royal family, backed up by British military might, were central figures in the creation of a ruthless system that imprisoned and sometimes tortured any Bahraini citizen who even dared to suggest the idea of democracy.
The same British advisers also worked with the rulers of Bahrain to exercise a cynical technique of divide and rule --- setting Shia against Sunni in a very successful attempt to keep Bahrain locked in an old, decaying and corrupt system of tribal and religious rivalries. The deliberate aim was to stop democracy ever emerging.
The Bahrainis know this, practically everyone else in the Arab world knows this --- the only people who seem to have forgotten are the British themselves.
So I thought I would tell the story of Britain's involvement in the government and the security of Bahrain over the past 90 years. Especially as the present King of Bahrain is coming to have lunch with the Queen on May 18th.