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Occupied Arab World

Emir’s death tests the west’s plans

Crescent International

The Arab world is often commented on for the longevity and durability of its leaders. However, the result (from the western perspective) is a set of aging allies for whose deaths contingency plans must be made.

The death of Sheikh Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa, the Emir of Bahrain, on March 6 - shortly after a meeting with US defense secretary William Cohen - was the second time this year that the west’s plans have been tested. And, as in the case when King Hussein of Jordan passed away in February, the plans were not found wanting.

Sheikh Isa was smoothly succeeded by his son, Sheikh Hamad, without the last minute changes of plan which took place in Amman. In both cases the result was the installation of a well-trained ruler of whose ‘loyalty’ and ‘reliability’ the west can be sure. Where King Abdullah II of Jordan is a graduate of a US university and received military training at Sandhurst in Britain, Sheikh Hamad is a graduate of the US Army Command and Staff College in Leavenworth, Kansas.

This is important, for ‘security pact’ between Bahrain and the US is central to the west’s ‘strategic presence’ in (ie occupation of) the Persian Gulf, intended of course to protect the Arab peoples from ‘Iranian fundamentalism’ and their former ally in Baghdad.

Sheikh Isa’s rule was characterised by a benevolent face and a brutal hand, particularly towards political dissidents. The latter aspect of his rule was overseen by a British intelligence officer, Ian Henderson who became known for his expertise in torturing political prisoners. Hundreds of opponents remain in Bahraini jails, among them Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri, who is accused of treason and spying. His son Mansour expressed the hope that Sheikh Hamad’s accession would “open a new page of reconciliation with the Bahraini opposition”.

But Cohen’s anticipation of “continued support for the efforts of the United States to promote peace in the region” is more likely to be realized.

Muslimedia: April 1-15, 1999

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 28, No. 3

Dhu al-Hijjah 14, 14191999-04-01

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