Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Bahrain is not Lebanon | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The worst thing that the Shiite opposition in Bahrain could do now is to accept external mediation to resolve their problems with the government, because this would have serious consequences for the opposition itself, even if Kuwait were to mediate.

By merely accepting Kuwaiti mediation, this is a genuine sectarian move on the part of the opposition. The Shiite opposition criticized the decision to send the Peninsula Shield force to Bahrain, although the force was deployed to maintain security and not to deal with the demonstrators. The opposition considered this to be a form of ‘Saudi occupation’, and defamed Riyadh in the Western media, even though the Saudi troops were accompanied by the rest of the Peninsula Shield forces, which entered Bahrain in accordance with a Gulf convention that has stood for nearly 30 years. How can the opposition say all this, and then accept Kuwaiti mediation between them and the government? Is this because Kuwait hesitated to send troops to Bahrain, or is it in response to sectarian advice from within Kuwait?

Of course, I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for Kuwait. I previously commended the Emir of Kuwait’s initiative to resolve the dispute between Oman and the UAE, but now I also criticize the proposal for Kuwaiti mediation in Bahrain. What Kuwait accomplished between Muscat and Abu Dhabi was both necessary and praiseworthy, because it purified the relationship between two Gulf States. However, mediation in Bahrain would mean interfering between a particular component of society, and the government, and this model has no parallel other than in Lebanon, where everyone acts as mediator to solve the country’s problems with the Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah. Is this what the Bahraini opposition wants? This is incomprehensible, even if the Bahraini government agreed to it, or if the initiative was sponsored by the UAE, Qatar or Saudi Arabia.

Bahrain must not become another Lebanon. Rather we must enhance the sense of citizenship in our countries, and our region, instead of entrenching the sense of sectarianism which is manipulated by external forces. The Gulf States have a problem with the Iranian regime, not its citizens, and not the Shiites. Citizenship should be all-encompassing, and it is wrong to classify between components, not just in Bahrain but in all Gulf States. The fear is that the Bahraini opposition wants to manipulate Kuwaiti mediation in order to embarrass the Gulf States, but the truth is that the opposition will only embarrass themselves, because they are repeating a universally rejected model, that of Hezbollah.

Consequently, my message to the Gulf States is that the Shiites are citizens like everyone else. My message to the Bahraini opposition is that they have committed an age old mistake by declaring a sectarian identity, and advocating the use of external mediation to solve domestic problems. This would be the last thing any rational observer would wish for, even if it came from a trusted mediator such as Kuwait. Thus it is up to the Bahraini opposition to choose their own form: Do they want to be like the Houthis in Yemen, when Qatar served as a mediator? Do they want to be like Hezbollah, which would be the worst possible outcome? Or do they want to be like the Kuwaiti opposition, incorporating both Sunnis and Shiites, who did not accept foreign interference between them and their government, not even in the darkest of times, and did not raise the ceiling of their demands, or exploit the Arab scene and its emergency circumstances, as the Shiite opposition in Bahrain are doing today. Thus the Bahraini opposition must choose the most appropriate model, because everything has its price!