While the existence of a parliamentary election in a Gulf monarchy is impressive in itself, a glance at the government's history of violent suppression of political dissent reveals that Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet, is far from the 'liberal, open and transparent' country it presents itself as to investors. 'Business-friendly Bahrain' is in fact anything but.
Our government may say that we're engaging the Saudis to foster reform in the kingdom. Apartheid South Africa's allies made similar arguments, calling for "constructive engagement" with the racist regime. Thankfully, Canada rejected that approach and led the world on sanctions, which hastened the end of apartheid.
It is no secret that the idea of amalgamating into a single country, which was farthest away from the minds of the rulers of these countries, was only contemplated as a direct result of the Arab Spring which toppled several Arab dictators who were thought to be completely invincible, and left the rest of them asking "Who will be next?" Now more than ever, a union of the Arab Gulf states is possible.
I'd like to publicly announce the immediate dumping of my formerly loved sport. By believing F1 could race in Bahrain this past weekend without endorsing an authoritarian regime and its violent repression of a pro-democracy movement, Bernie Ecclestone, the billionaire British owner, inserted the sport into the centre of the ongoing Arab Spring, and even helped to re-ignite it.
We have seen such coordination in times of open war, responses to cross-border aggression, and need for territorial defence. But this was different. Neither Egypt nor Libya was attacking anyone else -- this time it was what they were doing to their own people that prompted international action.
Bahrain is not nearly as corrupt as Egypt or Tunisia. The average Bahraini, Sunni or Shiite, is not poor like the average Egyptian and other Arab brethren. So why do we see thousands of people on the streets of Manama calling for change?
The trial of Mubarak will have the unintended consequence of teaching incumbent Arab governments that either they repress their protest movements or else face a similar wrath to that of Mubarak.