Tag Archives: GCC

‘A Fantastic Foreign Secretary’? William Hague Leaves Office

‘A Fantastic Foreign Secretary’? William Hague Leaves Office
by Ian Sinclair
Huffington Post
21 July 2014

You’ll have heard, of course, of the maxim “Don’t speak ill of the dead”. However, you are probably less familiar with the media’s recent modification to this: “Don’t speak ill of the recently departed Foreign Secretary”.

Over at the Financial Times political commentator Janan Ganesh noted William Hague, who announced he was stepping down as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs last week, “has hardly erred” since taking over the Foreign Office in 2010. “Nobody disputes his technical competence, his facility with a brief, his easy but authoritative style of management”, explained Ganesh.

The Guardian’s Diplomatic Editor Julian Borger reported that Hague had “suffered early setbacks but emerged at the end of it as a pioneering campaigner in partnership with one of the most glamorous film stars on the planet.” Indeed, Borger devotes over half of his article’s 756 words to Hague’s work with film star Angelina Jolie on sexual violence. And the “early setbacks”? That would be the rumours of Hague having an affair with his assistant and the incident when planes broke down trying to rescue British citizens from Libya.

Perhaps most shocking of all, Zara Taylor-Jackson, UNICEF UK’s Government Relations Manager, tweeted that Hague “has been a fantastic Foreign Secretary. He’s shown remarkable leadership in his efforts to end sexual violence in conflict.”

What these three responses to Hague’s resignation reveal is that propaganda is just as much about what is left out as what is actually stated.

So all three failed to mention that Hague was a key player in the NATO attack on Libya in 2011. The West quickly overstepped the United Nations resolution, escalating the level of violence and number of dead and arguably fanning the flames of conflict into Mali. Today Libya is in a state of perpetual violent crisis, with rival militias fighting over Tripoli’s international airport in the past week.

They also failed to mention Hague’s role in pushing for war in Syria in August 2013, a course of action that would have increased the level of violence and dead, according to such anti-war liberal pinkos as two former NATO Secretary-Generals and Yacoub El Hillo, the highest ranking UN humanitarian official in Syria at the time.

They also failed to mention Hague’s involvement in the continuing US-NATO military occupation of Afghanistan. Last week the United Nations reported civilian casualties in Afghanistan had surged 24 percent in the first half of the year – their highest levels since 2009.

They also failed to mention Hague’s role in standing with Bahrain’s rulers in opposition to democracy and human rights, and how Hague continued the long-standing British policy of supporting the other Gulf autocracies of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE, overseeing billions of dollars of arms sales to these undemocratic governments.

They also failed to mention that while Hague has been foreign secretary Britain has armed Israel and provided cast-iron support to Israel as it attacks the “prison camp” of Gaza.

And finally they also failed to mention how Hague has given his support to the murderous US ‘war on terror’ and all that entails – drones attacks on seven nations, US special forces operations across the world, extraordinary rendition and the US prisons in Bagram and Guantanamo.

All this is not to single out Hague as especially bad or evil – he is simply fulfilling his role as British Foreign Secretary. If he had thought or acted differently he would never have risen so high in the British political elite. As the historian Mark Curtis explained in his 1995 book The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign Policy since 1945 “Rather than occasionally deviating from the promotion of peace, democracy, human rights and economic development in the Third World, British foreign policy has been systematically opposed to them, whether the Conservatives or Labour have been in power.”

However, I would argue that writing an assessment of Hague’s time as Foreign Secretary and not mentioning any of these significant global events displays an extraordinary level of internalised establishment-friendly thinking – something huge chunks of the British media seem to excel at. As Curtis said in his 2003 book Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World, “The British liberal intelligentsia generally displays its servitude to the powers that be rather than to ordinary people, whether here or abroad.”

 

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Gulf countries need revolutionary climate action, not glossy mega-projects

Gulf countries need revolutionary climate action, not glossy mega-projects
by Ian Sinclair
The New Arab
20 December 2016

In May 2016 researchers from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute published a deeply concerning study for the Middle East. According to the academics, climate change could make large parts of the region uninhabitable. By the year 2100, midday temperatures on warm days could reach 50°C, with heat waves potentially occurring ten times more than today. The expected temperature rises could put “the very existence of its inhabitants in jeopardy”, noted Jos Lelieveld, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry.

The future looks similarly bleak on the global level. In 2013 Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at University College London, explained that “We are already planning for a 4°C world because that is where we are heading. I do not know of any scientists who do not believe that.”

What would a 4°C world look like, I asked Professor Kevin Anderson, the Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, earlier this year? “Global chaos and collapse I think would be a fair assessment”, was his frightening reply. He went on to list a number of likely outcomes: Sea level rise of one metre by 2100; an increase in the frequency and severity of storms; a 40 percent reduction in staple crop yields; substantial changes in rainfall patterns and massive migration.

In the face of this crisis, Middle East governments have slowly started to turn their attention to the problem of climate change, largely presenting it as an uncontroversial topic that requires technical solutions – a perfect example of fatally flawed “techno-optimism” if ever there was one.

A number of large-scale, press-friendly projects are being built, including Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy and Masdar City near Abu Dhabi. “Designed to be zero-carbon and zero-waste, home to a population of 40,000 people, 50,000 commuters, in an area of six square kilometres” Masdar City is “playing a crucial role in the development of sustainable design and technology”, gushed Susan Lee from the University of Birmingham.

However, though it’s rarely said, these top-down mega projects are unlikely to help in addressing climate change. Take Masdar: in reality, as Grist noted earlier this year, it “is, essentially, the world’s most sustainable ghost town”, with only a small part of the planned city built and the completion date pushed back from 2016 to 2030.

According to Deutsche Welle, critics “see Masdar first and foremost as a clever project to improve Abu Dhabi’s image” when “it remains one of the world’s worst polluters”.

And it’s not just the United Arab Emirates. The World Wildlife Fund’s 2014 Living Planet report found Kuwait and Qatar have the world’s highest per capita ecological footprint. “If all people on the planet had the footprint of the average resident of Qatar, we would need 4.8 planets”, the report noted.

“The thing about a crisis this big, this all-encompassing, is that it changes everything”, Canadian author Naomi Klein argues in her seminal 2014 book on climate change. “It changes what we can do, what we can hope for, what we can demand from ourselves and our leaders. It means there is a whole lot of stuff that we have been told is inevitable that simply cannot stand.” Klein maintains the scale of the problem means radical transformations are required in the political, economic and cultural spheres. In the Middle East this will mean revolutionary change. For example, the Paris climate agreement pledged to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”.

What does this mean for oil producing states? Using industry data, a recent report from US-based thinktank Oil Change International explained that “the potential carbon emissions from the oil, gas, and coal in the world’s currently operating fields and mines would take us beyond 2°C of warming”. Averting runaway climate change, according to the study, means no new fossil fuel extraction and some existing fields and mines closing before being fully exploited. Furthermore, Klein argues it is dangerous to consider environmental problems on their own. Rather they will only be solved together with other problems such as economic inequality, the corporate domination of the political and social world, consumerism and western imperialism. A classroom guide created to accompany Klein’s book even asks students to provide a “feminist ecological critique” of extractivism.

Many of the necessary changes will be difficult for rulers in the Middle East to contemplate. Analysing the Economic Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index and the World Energy Council’s Energy Trilemma Index, Professor Robert Looney from the Naval Postgraduate School in California explains that democratic governments are “more likely to comply with global agreements that set specific targets for carbon agreements” and “give environmental sustainability priority over either energy security or affordable energy supplies”. Concerned about their own survival, authoritarian regimes will invariably prioritise energy security and equity, Looney argues, since rising fuel prices risk social unrest.

A media free of government censorship and corporate influence is a key component of Looney’s findings, as it creates an informed citizenry. And once large numbers of people understand the dire threat of climate change, they will likely push for government action. An independent and critical media also engenders discussion and disagreement. The alternative – sadly commonin the Middle East – is hugely counterproductive and threatening to young people and future generations as it muzzles criticism and serious debate. For example, one critic of Masdar (who described it as a “green Disneyland”) said they wished to remain anonymous “Otherwise, you could get in trouble in Abu Dhabi”.

Another key feature of more democratic societies, is an active and independent civil society. As freed slave Frederick Douglass once said “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Progressive and lasting change almost always comes from below – something Klein implicitly understands when she calls for a “grassroots anti-extraction uprising”.

The blocking of the Dakota Access pipeline in the United States, the cancellation of Margaret Thatcher’s road expansion plans in Britain (“the biggest road-building programme since the Romans”), the introduction of the United Kingdom’s groundbreaking 2008 Climate Change Act – all of these environmental victories happened because of long campaigns by activist groups overcoming state-corporate power.

In short, far from being an uncontroversial, technical issue, climate change is actually a real threat to the status quo – in the Middle East and elsewhere. Because if we are serious about addressing climate change, then we need to successfully challenge established power – that is the extractive-enriched, growth-obsessed, profit-driven, largely unelected elites whose actions have led us to this existential crisis point.

With some of the region’s governments repeatedly trying to impede international agreements to combat climate change, this is especially true for the Middle East. With time running out, the future of the Middle East and the wellbeing of humanity depends on how quickly we win the revolutionary changes that are so desperately needed.

 

Climate change: the elephant in the Arabian Gulf

Climate change: the elephant in the Arabian Gulf
by Ian Sinclair

Open Democracy
21 March 2016

Speaking to me after the December 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement on climate change, Professor Kevin Anderson, the Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, noted the world is still on course for 3-4°C warming on pre-industrial levels (“and probably the upper end of that”).

In 2012 the World Bank summarised what this will look like in its suitably titled report Turn Down The Heat: Why A 4°C Warmer World Must Be Avoided. “The 4°C scenarios are devastating”, the foreword explained. “The inundation of coastal cities, increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates, many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter, unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics, substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions, increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones, and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems.” Professor Anderson believes a 4°C world will likely be “incompatible with an organized global community”, while Naomi Klein, the author of the seminal book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, states that “climate change is an existential crisis for the human species”.

All this is frightening enough but here is the real kicker: according to the scientific consensus 75 percent of known fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground if we are to have any chance of stopping dangerous levels of climate change.

Which brings us to the six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), who control around 30 percent of the world’s crude oil reserves and over 20 percent of the world’s gas reserves, and in particular Saudi Arabia, which holds around 16 percent of the planet’s oil reserves.

According to numerous NGOs and newspaper reports, Saudi Arabia, along with the Arab Group of countries it unofficially leads, worked to sabotage a robust deal in Paris, attempting to water down temperature limits and remove mention of human rights from parts of the agreement.

Naming Saudi Arabia “Fossil of the Day”, the Climate Action Network noted “ “the Saudi’s are trying to torpedo three years of hard science, commissioned by governments, that clearly shows 2 degrees warming is too much for vulnerable communities around the world.” Sven Harmeling, CARE International’s climate change advocacy coordinator, was equally critical: “Saudi Arabia is blocking these very substantive discussions going forward and [from] allowing ministers to understand what’s going forward.” The Guardian reported that Washington lobbyists representing Saudi Arabia and Kuwait worked to slow down and muddy the negotiation process, attempting to link climate aid for small island nations that could disappear completely under rising seas to compensation packages for oil producers facing declining revenues.

A similar dynamic was in evidence at the UN climate talks in Bonn in September 2015. “There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia’s position is harmful”, noted Jens Mattias from Greenpeace. “We need strong long-term goals and an agreement to phase out fossil fuels – Saudi Arabia is fighting against this tooth-and-nail. And they have a lot of influence, especially on other oil-producing countries.”

From a narrow short-term perspective there are, of course, many self-interested reasons why Saudi Arabia and other GCC nations would want to block meaningful action on climate change. The vast majority of their revenues comes from oil and gas, and while ‘economic diversification’ is endlessly debated throughout the GCC, there is little prospect of weaning their economies off the black gold anytime soon.

“Oil revenues allow the rulers of countries like Saudi Arabia to pay out generously on welfare and subsidies, which underscores their mandate to rule, particularly in the wake of the Arab Spring”, notes German newspaper Deutsche Welle. Dr Jim Krane, a researcher on energy and the GCC at Rice University’s Baker Institute, makes plain just how high the stakes are for GCC rulers: “Telling Saudi Arabia it has to leave its oil in ground is tantamount to saying we support a revolution in your country”.

So, to summarize, the GCC’s rulers need to keep extracting fossil fuels to ensure their own survival, just as the planet and humanity requires the GCC and other governments to stop extracting fossil fuels for their own survival. It is this irreconcilable clash of interests that led journalist Pari Trivedi to report from the Paris climate talks that Saudi Arabia “has been negotiating in a manner that refutes any consideration for the wellbeing of humankind”.

The Gulf itself will be hit particularly hard by a rise in global temperatures, leading to significantly hotter and dryer conditions in the region, with increasing freshwater shortages contributing to security threats and enlarged refugee flows. Yemen’s water problems are well understood. Less well known is the link between climate change-related drought and the conflict in Syria. Reviewing a study in the journal Nature Climate Change, The Guardian explains the GCC “will suffer heatwaves beyond the limit of human survival if climate change is unchecked”. Kicking in after 2070, the research shows 45°C would become the normal summer maximum in Gulf cities, with 60°C seen in places like Kuwait during some years.

As the author Robert Tressell wrote in his classic book The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, “Every man who is not helping to bring about a better state of affairs for the future is helping to perpetuate the present misery and is therefore the enemy of his own children. There is no such thing as being neutral: we must either help or hinder.”

We in the West should not duck our own culpability. Ever since the late 1980s when the world began to understand the dangers of climate change, the West has been intimately involved in this dangerous ecological poker game. First, it is the affluent, industrialised societies that require significant amounts of the world’s fossil fuels to maintain our unsustainable consumer-based lifestyles. And second, the West – through military intervention, arms deals, diplomatic support and trade – plays a crucial role in protecting and maintaining the Gulf monarchies in power.

Deutsche Welle notes that many believe oil’s “greatest value” to Saudi Arabia “is as a strategic weapon”, allowing it to play an oversized role in the international arena. And this is where the politics of climate change should be of great interest to anyone concerned about the West’s support for the most fundamentalist government on earth. For example, a significant shift to renewables in the UK would dramatically reduce the nation’s reliance on oil coming from the Middle East and the Gulf, which would, in turn, dramatically reduce the power of Saudi Arabia to influence the UK’s foreign and domestic politics. Just imagine: no more flags flying at half-mast; no more Serious Fraud Office investigations prematurely closed down; no more dodgy arms sales; no more enabling of the on-going humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Climate change, the strength of the environmental movement in the West, the arms trade, the UK’s energy make-up, political change in Saudi Arabia, Western foreign policy – everything is connected. And it is no exaggeration to say the very future of humanity depends on how quickly the populations and leaders in the West and the GCC come to understand these links and the threat to their own and the planet’s well-being – and how quickly they act.

Tormented by Britain: Life at the Receiving End of UK Foreign Policy

Tormented by Britain: Life at the Receiving End of UK Foreign Policy
by Ian Sinclair
New Left Project
24 April 2015

In February 2011 large scale protests inspired by the Arab Spring erupted against the Bahraini government, an ally of the United States and United Kingdom. Rooted in the country’s majority Shi’a population and propelled by socio-economic inequality and perceived government corruption, the protestors initially pushed for political reform and escalated soon thereafter to demands for regime change. Headed by the ruling Al Khalifa family, the Bahraini government has forcefully cracked down on the demonstrations, killing and injuring hundreds of people and arresting thousands.

Ian Sinclair asked Dr. Ala’a Shehabi, founder of the research and advocacy organisation Bahrain Watch, about the ongoing struggle between the opposition and the government, the November 2014 national elections in Bahrain and the role of the UK.

In January 2015, UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond MP praised Bahrain’s human rights record. Bahrain, he said, ‘is a country which is travelling in the right direction’ and ‘making significant reform’. What is the current human rights situation in Bahrain? Is the Bahraini government’s crackdown on peaceful protest continuing?

To understand the current human rights predicament in Bahrain is to understand the public advice that a British think-tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), gave in a parliamentary select committee investigation: ‘Suppressing dissent is not something most countries have problems with; it is doing so in an acceptable manner that poses the challenge, and that is where the UK’s efforts in Bahrain can help’.

Shortly after foreign secretary Philip Hammond made the statement above, the Bahraini regime revoked the citizenship of 72 Bahrainis, the majority of whom were peaceful dissidents, rendering them stateless, and imprisoned one of the region’s most ardent human rights activists, Nabeel Rajab, for his critical tweets. Virtually every political leader of the major opposition groups in the country is behind bars. However, the population of political prisoners come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds including doctors, unionists, photographers, academics and clerics, as well as swathes of youths that comprise the 3000+ prison population today. A new report from Amnesty International, entitled ‘Behind the Rhetoric: Human rights abuses in Bahrain continue unabated’, details the most recent examples of egregious abuses in a country that Hammond praises ad nauseam.

The 200-year old relationship between the UK and Bahrain has withstood the test time of time, weathering cycles of popular uprisings over the past century and participating where necessary in their suppression. The two governments are inseparable, the relationship unquestionable, resilient and unconditional. Over the past financial year alone, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has directed more than £1.2 million towards its Bahraini allies. Effectively, British taxpayers’ money has been used to enable a police state to continuously upgrade its sophisticated and modern system of coercion and social control, a system that utilises the services of British and American security consultants like John Timoney and John Yates and highly sophisticated British-made surveillance technology like FinFisher. You can read about the wide spectrum of military, logistical and legal support that the Bahraini regime receives from the United Kingdom here.

In realpolitik terms, British interests are so intertwined with those of the Bahraini ruling family that the problem of human rights abuses has been cited by the British government as reason for policy continuity, in the form of yet more security consultants, mediators, legal support, and even military assistance and arms sales in the name of ‘reform’ and ‘the rule of law’ that always seem to entrench rather than alter the reality that Bahrainis have to live with. So far from the Bahraini regime’s repression causing any tension in relations with Britain, business between the two states is booming, and indeed new investment opportunities have been created.

Last month, Bahrain’s main central prison was tear-gassed by police forces trying to quash a prison riot and credible reports of injuries amongst prisoners due to torture continue to emerge. The UK’s HM Inspectorate of Prisons has been supposedly assisting ‘reforming’ the Bahraini prison system since at least 2013, yet during this period, reports of torture, abuse and miscarriages of justice have persisted unabated. Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch notes that ‘Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system’. The unarmed opposition has been effectively throttled, unable to freely mobilise in ever more restricted spaces. Protests are outright banned in the majority of the country. The internet is monitored and censored. It is a stifling situation, in which a highly visible police state exerts heavy-handed and conspicuous control over a small territory and a small population.

But the state has failed to silence voices of dissent and stop the protests. The latest iteration of protests, now in their fifth year, has been the longest standing of the Arab uprisings and the most peaceful. With nearly 100 people killed directly by security forces, this is also the most bloody confrontation in modern Bahraini history. Back to RUSI’s advice: the ‘suppression of dissent’ has not been successful and, despite the UK’s help, it has not been done in a particularly ‘acceptable’ manner either.

In November 2014, Bahrain held parliamentary elections, which the main opposition groupings in Bahrain, including the largest, al-Wafeq, boycotted. The UK ambassador to Bahrain ‘welcomed’ the elections, noting that turnout was ‘encouraging’. What’s your take on the elections and the UK ambassador’s response?

The UK ambassador’s response is consistent with Britain’s policy of unshakeable support for the ruling family. The elections, essentially a liberal façade for an illiberal authoritarian state, were naturally celebrated and praised by the British, even when a majority boycotted them (the government claims 52 percent turnout, though no internationally independent monitors were allowed to oversee the vote) and they failed international standards of free and fair elections. Bahrain Watch documented the structural flaws in the electoral process and its consequent inability to produce any political change.

As punishment for this boycott, the ‘tolerated’ opposition—registered political groups that are negotiating and dialoguing with the regime, of whom President Obama said in 2011, ‘you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail’—have been effectively obliterated. The head of the main political society, al-Wefaq, was arrested and faces serious charges. All its rallies have been banned.

There is a massive PR drive by the regime to burnish its image, and the British ambassador frequently volunteers his services. Here he is sky-diving at the 2012 Bahrain Air Show. We at Bahrain Watch try to track and document a small sample of the PR contracts that have been made between the West and the Bahraini regime since 2011, amounting to more than £50 million.

Elections are only as important as the political change they are able to effect. In our case that is virtually zero, given the structural imbalance in the separation of powers (judicial, legislative, executive), a disempowered parliament, the gerrymandering of voting districts, and the lack of equal citizenship rights. The country is run by royal decree with the decorative features of a parliamentary democracy. The British ambassador applauds elections in which various forms of political coercion and harassment were used against those who boycotted, and thus is complicit in denying Bahrainis’ right to self-determination.

In December 2014 the UK announced it would be establishing a military base in Bahrain—‘the first permanent military base in the Middle East since it formally withdrew from the region in 1971’, according to the BBC. What effect do you think this news will have on Bahraini politics?

Bahrain has a special place in the heart of the British establishment. ‘We’re back’, read the headline in the Economist magazine when the new British base was announced last December. In fact, the British never really left Bahrain, even after ‘independence’. There is a revolving door of police officers, British private secretaries and former ambassadors that shift between positions in the Bahraini government. The island already hosts an American base and a GCC military base. Its political and economic sovereignty has effectively been forfeited in order to maintain the regime’s survival. In October 2012, while street protests and the police crackdown were raging, the Bahraini government agreed a UK-Bahrain Defence Cooperation Accord. A 2013 British parliamentary committee stated,

We are disappointed that the [British] Government has provided so little detail to Parliament and this Committee on its most recent defence accord with Bahrain. It was predictable that Bahrain would consider it a public signal of support and, if the Government did not mean it to send this message, it would have been more sensible to have immediately released information about the Accord and the UK’s reasons for agreeing it at this time.

We remain in the dark.

Since the 2012 Accord, Bahraini protests have taken a markedly anti-British tone. Activists have sought to highlight the paradox of having a partner like Bahrain in the anti-ISIS coalition, when it has itself nurtured a sectarian pretext for its suppression of dissidents, who it has portrayed as a Shi’ite fifth column loyal to Iran. When human rights activist Nabeel Rajab tweeted that Bahrain’s security forces have served as an ‘ideological incubator’ for extremists, many of whom have gone on to join ISIS and several of whom have been killed or carried out suicide attacks, he was jailed and put on trial. As evidence he has provided samples of the books printed and distributed by the Bahrain Defence Force.

The Bahraini regime, which has already purchased nearly £70 million in arms from the UK, will be paying for the construction of the new British base. Ironically, when the Sheikhs offered to pay the British to keep their bases in the Gulf after their withdrawal in the 1970s, ‘they were brutally and gratuitously shot down by [British Defence Secretary Denis] Healey, who in a television interview retorted “that he was not ‘sort of a white slaver for Arab shaiks’”. British soldiers should not become ‘mercenaries for people who like to have British troops around”’, Healey said.

What explains the UK’s on-going support for the Bahraini government?

Next year, we will endure year-long celebrations of the bicentenary of UK-British relations. For most of this time—1816 to 1971—Bahrain was officially a British protectorate. In this era, the British effectively crystallised the political order and the Al Khalifa tribe’s hold on power, thwarting invaders, replacing rulers and assisting in repression of periodic uprisings—in effect stalling what could have become one of the few early democratisers in the Middle East. If the formal protectorate has now ended, British concern for Bahraini rulers’ well-being persists. Thus, in December 2014 Foreign Secretary Hammond assured the Al Khalifa ruling family that, ‘Your security is our security; your prosperity is our prosperity; your stability is our stability’.

Of course, this praise is publicly reciprocated by the faithful ally. In 2013, the Bahraini King Hamad said,

On Britain’s withdrawal from the gulf—a unilateral decision—which my father said: ‘Why? No one asked you to go!’ In fact, for all practical and strategic purposes, the British presence has not changed and it remains such that we believe we shall never be without it.

His son, the Crown Prince, declared that he would be ‘personally eternally grateful’ for its role in Bahrain.

The principle factors are therefore historical continuity, privilege, and invitation, but to these we must add economic interests. Bahrain is now the pinnacle of a toxic combination of raging neoliberalism driven by Gulf, in particular Saudi, capital accumulation (in the form of massive real estate investment projects and financial aid package) and Western imperialism. We have three military bases, a British base, a GCC military base and of course, the US Fifth fleet. What could possibly shake a regime that has become so fortified with Western and Gulf support?

What should UK citizens concerned about the situation in Bahrain do?

Like many others, I have come to the slow realization of the sheer extent of British involvement in repression. I face things like British-manufactured spyware sent to my email by the Bahraini government. British ‘consultants in London and Manama [i.e. the capital of Bahrain] are paid millions to be the designated legal defence team of the regime, or to organize prestige events like Bahrain Air Show (based on the Farnborough Air Show) and international security conferences by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. In the UK, the Bahraini King still gets the red carpet rolled out and enjoys tea and horses at Windsor every year.

By the way, those Saudi tanks that you saw rolling into Bahrain on 14 March, 2011 were British. Even the police dogs we have are trained up by a British company called Top Dog.

Tony Blair, who never met a dodgy dictator he didn’t like, visited Manama earlier this year and again last week. I once had a meeting about the planned Grand Prix in Bahrain with Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who told me to stop hammering on about democracy, amongst many other outrageous comments that I have not gone on the record with. It isn’t so much business as usual as more business than usual.

Transnational solidarity is an important part of every struggle, and struggles are themselves stronger when they are part of a wider global movement. Citizens of Western countries whose governments have intervened destructively in foreign countries must interrogate this behaviour and challenge it. In the UK, this would mean initiating and supporting initiatives that question the FCO’s role in Bahrain and the British media’s failure to cover a conflict in which the government is siding with a rogue state against its people, using British taxpayers’ money.

There are endless things people can do. Previous actions range from stopping arms shipments and exposing the ‘dark arts’ of PR companies for the regime to exposing UK assets belonging to the Bahrain ruling family. Others have taken legal action to lift the immunity of torturers, and to try to force the FCO to release secret documents from the 1970s that may demonstrate British complicity in Bahrain’s human rights abuses.

The British elections are coming up. Much work needs to be done to pressure the new government to change course.