7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Local News

How violence has isolated Al Wefaq

In his speech at the 68th United Nations General Assembly, US President Barack Obama made confounding remarks equating events in Bahrain to Syria and Iran.

However, Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa forcefully rejected the US President's reference.

"The climate in the country today bears no equivalence to the sectarian conflicts occurring in Syria and Iraq," Shaikh Khalid said.

"What is occurring in Bahrain today is a concerted effort by terrorist extremist groups to target security personnel and expatriates with the intent of spreading fear and division within Bahrain's society, as well as targeting Bahrain's national economy and development.

"The government of Bahrain responds to these efforts within the rule of law that protects the rights of all."

HRH Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa foresaw the rise and destructive force of a violent political movement - and acted to counter the threat to Bahrain.

After coming to power His Majesty King Hamad put forward the National Action Charter, which was instrumental in returning the country to constitutional rule and on February 14, 2002 the new Bahraini constitution was unveiled.

Since that day political assemblies representing a wide spectrum of political trends and religious beliefs have freely contested seats in Bahrain's parliamentary and municipal elections.

They include the Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, which warrants special scrutiny.

It was founded on November 7, 2001 by exponents of Al Da'wa (Islamic missionary work) and velayat-e faqih (a system of Islamic governance overseen by a supreme leader).

Its beliefs stem from Marxism and Leninism: The ideology of communism, socialism and ultra-nationalism, incorporating the preservation and expansion of the Shi'ite system of velayat-e faqih and the Islamic revolution.

Political violence to further this goal is not unusual, as illustrated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini - the first Supreme Leader of Iran and potentate of the Islamic revolution there.

In 2006, inspired by politico-religious direction from Iran and Iraq, one of Al Wefaq's founders and its undisputed religious leader Shaikh Isa Qassim reversed his opposition to parliamentary elections and issued a fatwa calling on his followers to take part.

The movement swept to victory and did so again in 2010, a success representative of a general rise in Shi'ite politics in the Gulf.

This coincided with the rise of Shi'ite groups in Iraq and increasing regional geopolitical influence of Iran.

But participation in constitutional politics did not afford an immediate and substantial change in the governance of Bahrain.

But then came the Arab Spring, which paved the way for increasingly violent unrest in Bahrain.

After February 14, 2011 even peaceful demonstrations were infiltrated by radical elements such as Hizbollah.

On February 17, 2011, 18 Al Wefaq MPs resigned following the deaths and arrests of Shi'ite demonstrators.

In the following months the monarchy made every effort to resolve differences and use Al Wefaq's influence to end the internecine unrest.

However, under the principle of velayat-e faqih, Shi'ite scholars believe that after the disappearance of the 12th (Hidden) Imam in 874 AD a religious council (ulama) can legitimise jihad.

There is no restriction on the kind of war that may be waged in the hidden Imam's absence so long as it is authorised by a just ruler (this idea reached its zenith under Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini).

It is indisputable that in Bahrain, Shaikh Isa Qassim is considered to be such a person.

On March 13, 2011 Shaikh Isa Qassim rejected the political effort and chose to exercise his veto power - ending dialogue between the opposition and HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Comm-ander and First Deputy Premier.

This decision resulted in attempts to install an Islamic state by a systematic deployment of violent foot soldiers, who terrorised the country even as the international media and human rights organisations were being manipulated.

Activists and Hizbollah operatives trained in information warfare diligently recorded demonstrations and the responses of security forces, doctoring footage and disseminating it to the world.

The narrative was a disproportionate police response to "peaceful protests", in an attempt to force political and economic sanctions on Bahrain.

Local "human rights activists" continue making sensationalist, ostensible statements that are repeated by remiss media personalities even today.

During this time opposition radicals attacked and threatened foreigners, with the Pakistan Embassy alone reporting over 2,000 attacks against its nationals.

This violence was intended to drive out those unwilling to fully accept the 20th Century "Activist Twelver Shi'ism" promoted by Ayatollah Khomeini.

There were also attacks on Sunni Muslims.

Strategic roadways and highways continue to be routinely blocked with burning tyres, and motorists are assaulted by militants.

Security forces are still confronted by youths armed with "white weapons" and Molotov cocktails.

The use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) has exacerbated the situation and led to further casualties.

"Entire armies used to be mobilised by Friday sermon and proceed directly from the mosque to the battlefield and a man who sets out from the mosque to go into battle will fear only God," wrote Ayatollah Khomeini.

These tactics evoke the communist principle of revolution.

It was Lenin himself who said: "For the revolution to succeed certain conditions must be created where rulers can no longer govern as they did before."

That is why daily life in Bahrain continues to be disrupted, undermining the government's attempts to restore law and order.

But this premeditated, politically-motivated violence against noncombatant targets has isolated Al Wefaq radicals.

Faced with dislodgement, opposition leaders appealed for international intervention in Bahrain.

"The solution will never come from inside: It should be forced from outside after agreement by the regional powers, including the US," said former Al Wefaq MP Mattar Mattar.

It is therefore ironic that Al Wefaq opposed the intervention of GCC forces to guarantee national security, describing it as a "blatant foreign interference if not occupation".

The question is who are the underwriters of opposition violence and perpetuators of conditions in which such groups continue to flourish?

The answer may lie in history.

What is evident is that the maritime and costal areas of Bahrain were once part of Iranian territory from the beginning of the Sasanian Empire until Iran was occupied by Arab Islamic forces and bedouins migrating from Arabian deserts into Southern Iran.

The victory of the 1979 Iranian revolution resuscitated Iran's claims and gave them newfound belligerence.

However, military powers arrayed against Iran make any overt conflict impossible, given the massive retaliation it could expect.

That's why Iran adopted a policy of covert violence in Bahrain, instigating sectarian unrest to damage social and economic life.

Principal benefits include possible destabilisation of Iran's geopolitical arch-rival and Bahrain's neighbour Saudi Arabia, while forcing the US to consider whether Bahrain remained a safe place to headquarter its naval Fifth Fleet.

Getting a foothold in Bahrain would also allow Iran increased control over the Strait of Hormuz, where it could establish a choke point constraining some 20 per cent of the world's oil supply.

Several people are currently standing trial in Bahrain in a number of cases for allegedly receiving training and other support from Iran and its proxies to conduct acts of violence in Bahrain.

The fact also remains that there is a clear connection between Iran's and Bahrain's most senior Shi'ite clergy and founders of the Al Wefaq movement, as well as irrefutable strategic convergence of interests of Iran and Al Wefaq.

The danger is that radical groups behind the violence in Bahrain could one day emerge as a "legitimate" entity on the international stage, if nothing is done to check the Jihadist brand of Shi'ite rejectionism.

However, such groups will also fade into insignificance if the theocratic oligarchy that fuels their cause becomes disempowered.

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