Bahrainis split over Peninsula Shield

March 22, 2011

A divergence of opinion in Bahrain over the merit of hosting the Peninsula Shield, the military arm of the GCC, intensified with major social and political groups staking their positions.

An alliance of seven opposition organisations told reporters on Sunday evening that the military back-up was uncalled for and demanded the immediate departure of the units.

“As we welcome intermediaries to end the current impasse, we call for the departure of the Peninsula Shield forces,” Ali Salman, the head of Al Wefaq, Bahrain’s largest civil society group, said. “We demand that they leave and we do not want Iranian interference,” he said as the seven-party alliance held a conference to discuss developments in the country.

The seven groups that comprise the coalition are Al Wefaq, the Democratic Menbar, Islamic Action Society, Islamic Brotherhood (Ekhaa) Society, National Democratic Action Society ‘Waad’, National Democratic Rally Society and the People Democratic Rally Society.

However, Abdul Lateef Al Mahmoud, head of the newly-formed National Unity Rally, was quick to reject Al Wefaq’s call, saying it would “reintroduce terrorism to the region”.

“We now see that Bahrain is edging back to normalcy thanks to the presence of security forces,” he said. “When they ask for their departure, it is like asking for a free hand to do as they please. This is unacceptable, and the state has a duty to achieve security and stability for all people. It cannot respond to the aims of a group of protesters who have been antagonistic.”

A national dialogue to discuss issues and suggest ways to tackle the crisis has been stalled with only a single group — the National Unity Rally, an umbrella group of 30 religious societies — showing any interest in the dialogue so far.

Political solution sought

At the conference, Al Wefaq parties said they were not refusing the dialogue offer outright, but wanted “the right conditions”.

“The country now needs to have the army back in the barracks, the departure of the Peninsula Shield forces, an investigation into what has happened and the release of all detainees. When we see the genuine conditions for a dialogue, we will be the first to participate in it,” the group said. “Right now, we want a political solution.”

Al Mahmoud, retorted: “We still face threats to social peace and security by thugs who are still on the loose. Once we all feel safe, then we can start consultations about the national dialogue or ways to address problems, especially the constitutional issues.”

As the spectre of an Iranian role in Bahrain loomed larger yesterday following charges of interference in domestic affairs, Al Asala, the voice of Salafism in Bahrain, called for severing diplomatic ties with Tehran and expelling its envoy. “The call is based on Iran’s blatant interference in Bahrain’s domestic affairs and the bellicose statements and threats to Bahrain,” the society said in a statement.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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