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Gulf leaders will meet in Riyadh on Monday, and according to Bahrain’s de facto Information Minister, the announcement of a new, stronger union will be amongst its outcomes.

Not all six GCC states would necessarily be on board, but at the very least it would include Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. ”I expect there will be an announcement of two or three countries. We can’t be sure but I have a strong expectation,” Samira Rajab, Bahrain’s minister of state for information affairs, is being quote as saying by Agence France Press and Reuters.

She says individual sovereignties will be maintained, but the European Union-style body would make united decisions on foreign relations, security, military and economic policy.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah called for a “phase of union within a single entity” last December.

Other sources have confirmed that a Gulf Union will be part of tomorrow’s talks, and Bahrain’s Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa was quoted as saying he expects union plans to move forward, calling it the “biggest dream of the peoples of the region.”

Al Khalifa also said the union in a necessary step under the “current circumstances,” evidently referring to the uprising that has continued in Bahrain since February 2011.

As Qatar-based regional analyst David Roberts points out in a article for Foreign Policy, the prolonged instability has severely impacted Bahrain’s economy. And there are fears amongst the ruling classes in Manama and Riyadh that Iran is eyeing regime change.

Says Roberts:

Such a bilateral union would normalize the Saudi-led military action in Bahrain to potentially pave the way for the permanent stationing of “GCC” troops in Bahrain, while signaling the death knell for any political resolution with Riyadh having a de jure say over such outcomes as opposed to its already potent de facto sway.

Reaction online has been skeptical, with some calling for a referendum on the decision:

Union with #Saudi without the acceptance of #Bahrain-i people is another meaning of the word #OCCUPY, where is #UN from all this! #USA #OWS

— Ms.(@alabahrain)

May 13, 2012

#Bahrain-i opposition condemned the planned announcement,saying it would be wrong to make any deal without a referendum english.al-akhbar.com/content/saudi-…

— Hazem (@Hazembh)

May 13, 2012

Others questions the ramifications of such a union:

So if a union is declared between #Saudi and #Bahrain, does that mean Bahraini women will have their driving licenses revoked?

— Ahmed Al-Khaja (@ibn_alkhaja)

May 13, 2012

It’s clear, thought, that the move is not without some supporters:

I am Bahraini & I support the union with #Saudi. RT if you agree! #Bahrain #UnitedStatesOfArabia

— M. K. Al-Binateej (@ATEEKSTER)

May 12, 2012

Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, the general manager of Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya, has also laid out his views on the matter in an op-ed for Arab News, saying he won’t support a union that "would nullify the features of any Gulf society." In specific, he refers to women driving and cinemas in most Gulf states, parliamentary elections in Kuwait and free media in Saudi.

What do you think of the idea?

Credit: Map of Gulf countries via Google Maps

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Hundreds of Syrians and other Doha residents turned out to protest against President Bashar Al-Assad of Syria in a second day of action in Qatar.

Some three to four hundred people rallied in an empty lot opposite Qatar Sports Club this evening, waving the 1932 Syrian flag, wielding posters and chanting slogans against the Al-Assad government in Damascus.

“We are rallying here against the criminal Bashar Al-Assad … who is currently committing mass massacres and killing innocent civilians,” said Abu Maher Halabi, a Syria resident of Qatar attending the rally. 

“We are rallying against all the countries supporting the regime… in particular Russia, China and Iran, and Hezbollah. They are considered for us enemies of freedom and justice,” said Halabi, who is originally from Aleppo in Syria.

Police, both armed with batons on foot and at the ready in Toyota Land Cruisers, maintained a cordon around the protest grounds, while others directed traffic in and out of the parking area.

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Rumors surfaced yesterday afternoon that the motorcade of Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, had been attacked by a suicide bomber en route to his palace, leaving him wounded and eight aides dead.

Needless to say, the assertions have proven anything but credible.

The only news outlet that appears to have reported the alleged incident is Algerian newspaper Echorouk (stating that there is a news blackout). The article cites Egypt’s Alnahar, but a search of that site yields nothing

Claims of an assassination attempt were however, circulated widely on Twitter & Facebook.

Dismissing the unsubstantiated tweets, Foreign Policy managing editor and prolific tweeter Blake Hounshell, who resides in Doha, labeled the rumor "black propaganda":

As far as I can tell the rumor of an assassination attempt on the emir of Qatar is Syrian black propaganda. Treat as false.

Everything is normal here in Doha.

Tip: Any “scoop” you see in an obscure Middle East media outlet was probably fabricated or planted by a security service.

Most Arab papers don’t have correspondents around the region. So if, say, an obscure Algerian paper claims a scoop in Qatar it’s likely BS.

Qatar’s emir made an appearance on Al Jazeera a few hours later for an interview denying any such attack.

Sheikh Hamad told the channel that Qatar would not back down on it’s demands for an end to the bloodshed in Syria, saying:

"After five months of mass protests in Syria, killings have become almost a daily affair. The Syrian people will not go back on their demands. So the question being raised is how to get out of this stalemate in the country."

It isn’t the first time Qatar has been subjected to suspected Syrian propaganda attacks, in part due to Al Jazeera’s detailed coverage of the violence there.

Credit: Screengrab from Al Jazeera (Arabic) via Livestation

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Al Jazeera English is currently airing a bloody, compelling  and emotionally wrenching documentary recounting the February 14 uprising in Bahrain and the subsequent, repeated, brutal crackdowns carried out by the Gulf island’s government in co-operation with the rest of the GCC countries - including Qatar - and the silent assent of the international community.

Much of this is done through the compilation of video and reports the Qatar-based news channel managed to gather covertly at the height of the tensions in February and March of this year, as well as through the use of anonymous witness testimony.

Notably, “Bahrain: Shouting in the dark” does not delve much into interests of the United States, which hosts a major naval base there. Neither does it carry a single interview with a government supporter or spokesman, and can only be seen as deeply critical of the Khalifa government.

And while repeating that Al Jazeera remained the sole international broadcaster bearing witness to the violence - a clear rejection of criticism that the network did not do enough to cover the Arab Spring-style uprising - it fails to even mention an aggressive campaigning by the government to control news coverage, block international journalists from entering the country (including myself), and deport media workers critical of the rulers.

TENSIONS

Meanwhile, some reports have claimed that the documentary sparked a diplomatic row between Qatar and Bahrain.

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid Al Khalifa, initially reacted to the documentary by posting on Twitter that “it is obvious that there are people in Qatar who do not want good for Bahrain”.

However, refuting the notion that the film had caused serious damage in the relationship of the two countries, he tweeted (in Arabic):

“The report about cutting off relations between Bahrain and Qatar is not true and lacks credibility.”

Neither government has issued any official statements over the film, in an apparent effort to keep the controversy from growing any further, according to Gulf News report.

What’s your view on the documentary and the protests in Bahrain? Is it one-sided or revealing? Did the uprising deserve more international support, or did the protests threaten regional stability?