Much has been said about the most notorious dictatorship in the Middle East and close ally of the United States. Saudi Arabia, the number 1 beheader, carries out tasks such as bombing Yemen targets, including hospitals, and helping to stamp out rebellions for neighboring US-allied dictators. In exchange for this thuggery (and the flow of oil), the Saudis receive access to some of the best weapons in the world and guarantees of the monarchy’s continued existence in the face of massive discontent.
This resentment against Western puppets that rule Gulf nations is a contributing factor in the support for terrorism. Saudi Arabia is turning out to be a hotbed of support for ISIS, which also has to do with the fact that the state-sanctioned religious clergy teaches a radical form of Islam known as Wahhabism.
The U.S. government ignores these things, along with atrocious human rights records, when it has a vested interest in the country. Indeed, the U.S. has a particular liking for brutal monarchies with rich oil reserves.
The small country of Bahrain plays an incredibly large role in American military hegemony, hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Central Command. Here, too, we find an oppressive dictatorship that is ripe for ISIS recruitment. In Western countries, ISIS recruits fresh blood among the alienated youth, but in Bahrain they find willing jihadists in the government ranks and the establishment.
Bahraini human rights campaigner Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to six months in prison for pointing out that Bahraini security forces were cooperating with ISIS. Several recruits have come directly from the Bahraini military. A former Interior Ministry officer named Mohamed Isa al-Binali, who has a long record of hatred and violence from working at the notorious Jaw Prison, also joined ISIS.
The influential ISIS preacher, Turki al-Binali, comes from a family closely allied with the Bahraini al-Khalifa royal family, which has ruled since 1783 as an installment of the British empire.
In June 2014, Bahrain’s Information Minister, Sameera Rajab, tweeted that the advancing ISIS force might represent “a revolution against the injustice and oppression that has reigned over Iraq for more than 10 years.”
This apparent statement of support represents a widespread sentiment of the hardline Sunni ruling class in Bahrain, directed against the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. It is an example of how far those in government and the general populace will go to pursue victory for their side of the religious divide. Radicalism is dismissed in Bahrain as misguided youth led astray, and ISIS supporters brag about how much freedom they have in Bahrain compared to other Gulf countries.
Bahraini spokespersons talk about ending sectarian divisions and embracing democracy, but the actions of the monarchy tell a different tale. They have destroyed numerous Shia mosques and religious institutions, and have continued a brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.
After an independent commission found human rights violations in Bahrain’s suppression of Arab Spring protests in 2011, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa initiated a reform program based on the report’s recommendations. However, nothing ever came of it, and the same torture methods continued to be used on detainees.
After four years without reform, opposition groups boycotted parliamentary elections in 2014. The Bahraini monarchy followed with a massive campaign to silence the political opposition, imprisoning up to 4,000 doctors, teachers, student, journalists, photographers and others. Collective punishment, beating and torture of prisoners is well-documented.
Despite this record of violent political repression, and despite the support for ISIS within the ranks of Bahraini government, the U.S. happily keeps one of its most important naval bases in Bahrain. Secretary of State John Kerry and presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton have heaped praise on the brutal monarchy.
It turns out that Great Britain, the old friend of the al-Khalifa royal family, also intends to stake a long-term presence in its former colony. They will be constructing a permanent military base at Mina Salman Port, much to the anger of the people of Bahrain. The Brits have been more than willing to help the monarchy in its repression of political opposition, providing surveillance technology to Bahraini intelligence agencies so they could target 77 lawyers, activists and journalists.
In Bahrain, peaceful dissent is perceived as an equal or greater threat than crime and terrorism. Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, New York Times op-ed contributor and the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, woke up on January 31st to find that his Bahraini citizenship had been revoked.
Bahrain does its part in the war against ISIS by allowing U.S. airstrikes to be launched from the navy base, but its appetite for crushing dissent and wiping out Shiite organizations cannot be concealed. This fanaticism finds a friend in ISIS.