Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) seem to be in a race to see which one can establish more foreign military bases and which one can hire more foreign mercenaries. I once suggested that the Persian-American Gulf should be renamed the Gulf of Mercenaries, mainly because of these two countries’ penchant for importing foreign mercenaries to crush dissent and help stifle reform.
The British were in Bahrain for a long time as colonial masters. They had military bases on the island, and they helped the Al Khalifa ruling family and their tribal allies keep absolute political control and enabled them to continue looting the country. They left at the beginning of the 1970s although their bureaucrats continued to call the shots in many local institutions.
The U.S. naval base is a more recent development in Manama and it is largely considered a ‘non-political’ presence. It is a port of convenience and has no internal role. The Saudi military presence is an even more recent development, and it is a totally political and domestic security presence. The Saudi forces entered the country to help the Al Khalifa crush the “Arab Spring” popular uprising of 2011. They are now in the country as a permanent presence.
Then there is the huge contingent of foreign mercenaries imported from such humorless places as Pakistan and Jordan and Syria. They are definitely a political presence.
The British government has done its best to support the repression in Bahrain, it has even sent its unemployed princes and princesses on occasional visits to Bahrain. Just to enhance the ‘legitimacy’ of the ruling sectarian elites. Even as it has called for sanctions, nay even war, against the Syrian regime.
Now the British are reported to be in the process of re-establishing a new foreign military base on the island. That seems like a purely political presence, since Bahrain does not face any external threat other than from the foreign mercenaries imported by its regime.
Sovereign countries have the right to allow foreign bases on their soil: nothing unusual about that. Especially if they face external threats. Provided these bases do not interfere in domestic politics. But will the small island sink under the weight of all these foreign bases and imported mercenaries?………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum