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BAHRAIN - Pax Americana Is Changing - Part 3.

The Kingdom of Bahrain, with its young King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa, is one of the few countries in the Middle East which sensed the way in which the US was gradually changing its approach to the region, even before the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Having gone through a period of domestic instability in the mid-1990s, Bahrain by the late 1990s had become more attuned to the shifting geo-political realities in the region. This became evident when King Hamad, who came to power in March 1999 following the death of his father Shaikh Issa, immediately set about changing the political structure of the country and launched an ambitious economic reform programme in parallel.

Starting with wide-ranging consultations that began in March 1999, the emirate of Bahrain has been changed to a kingdom and has since held elections at the municipal and parliamentary levels. The ultimate objective is to move towards a constitutional monarchy. These moves, reflecting the generational change at the topmost level of leadership, have already had a positive impact on the way in which both Bahrainis and outsiders assess the prospects for the emirate.

A confirmation that the Bahraini leadership was prescient in its moves came in a landmark speech made on Feb. 26th at the conservative American Enterprise Institute by US President Bush. In the speech, he laid out a general roadmap for what the US envisages for the Middle East countries. Indirectly, Bush was outlining how post-Sept. 11 America would like the states in the region to look in the future and hinting at the changes they would be expected to make in accordance with that vision.

In effect, Bush has made it clear that the neo-isolationism that the Republican Party was accused of when it took office in January 2001 is likely to be replaced with neo-colonialism - i.e. the hard face of Pax Americana (see FAP No. 1). Elaborating on this new face of Pax Americana, he also specifically mentioned Bahrain and Morocco in a positive context while referring to the changes he envisaged for the Middle East, as follows:

"The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the 'freedom gap' so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions internal reform, greater political participation, economic openness, and free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward political reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region.

"It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world -- or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim -- is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror".

Bringing about such comprehensive changes in the region mean that, on the ground, Pax Americana will come face to face with regimes that are determined to maintain the status quo including some among its closest allies in the region. None of the countries regarded until Sept. 11, 2001, as moderate allies of the US in the region - Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco - are keen to see the type of superstructural changes Bush envisaged in his Feb. 26 speech.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Mar 10, 2003
Previous Article:ALGERIA - Some Potential Difficulties.
Next Article:BAHRAIN - The Imminent War & Implications.

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