Two items from today’s English language propaganda sheet the Gulf Daily News. The first is today’s front page story, about spending cuts in Bahrain:
Unelected Khalifa Al Khalifa, at 41 years in office the world’s longest-serving prime minister, apparently “issued directives to downsize official delegations for events which do not require high-level participation”. The high-level meeting also “discussed Bahrain’s financial policies and the current fiscal situation” and “stressed the necessary to engage radical structural reforms….”
Not perhaps the most riveting story. However, I’m wondering exactly what public spending the PM might have his eye on. I suspect this spells the beginning of the end for the EDB, 2030, and the range of structures parallel to the official Bahrain state which the Crown Prince tried to erect to see through his reform agenda. Of course, nothing will can be seen to have failed or been wound down, I’m sure the 2030 institutions will continue to live on in the shadowland of websites, logos, and PR. But this is, I suspect, their death-knell as effective institutions. Ditto Gulf Air, which is disliked for sectarian reasons.
Thus, the hardliners’ internal coup against reform continues, a coup the beginning of which I witnessed during 2010. Who’s there too stop it? Certainly not Our Man in Manama Iain Lindsay, who seems to have confused his role as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Bahrain with that of regime PR man. Lindsay’s eyes aren’t on the internal coup that’s currently doing so much harm to Bahrain, but on the regime’s fantasy coup, you know, Bahrain-is-not-part-of-the-Arab-Spring-it’s-all-an-Iranian-backed-coup-against-a-pro-Western-ally. Yawn…:
Lindsay is perhaps the regime’s ideal British Ambassador, since he has no previous experience of working in the MENA region and is not an area specialist. Our former Something Or Other in Hong Kong may well have “serious concerns about the Iranian government’s policies and attempts to destabilise Bahrain….”, but isn’t it time he woke up to the Bahrain regime’s policies and attempts to destabilise Bahrain?
He continues, “Any Iranian interference, including attempts to exploit sectarian differences, is unacceptable….” Quite right too, but as Britain’s ambassador to Bahrain, rather than Iran, oughtn’t he be more concerned with those sections of the Bahrain regime that have a vested interest in continuing unrest, and which have built and maintained a system of institutionalised sectarianism in Bahrain. Both of these constitute a threat to British interests in the region.
Finally, he wheels out the BICI, “The UK welcomes the Bahrain government’s steady progress in implementing the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry…”
Presumably Lindsay has not heard the DePaul University TV interview in which Bassiouni says “You have to chose between maintaining the unity of the family and the regime, and the unity of the country…there have to be major political, economic and constitutional reforms…I think the [Bahraini] public is going to come out in the end and say this is a whitewash, and I think they would be justified in saying so…there is merit in naming and shaming….”
Our Man in Manama is part of the problem not the solution if he so comprehensively fails to understand what is going on underneath his nose, at times like this UK taxpayers should be paying a heavyweight diplomat with real area knowledge and experience, not a PR man and sales guy….