Rajab’s Detention Extended; Opposition to Saudi-Bahrain Union
Prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who was recently arrested for “inciteful” tweets, had his detention extended by another week. His lawyer, Mohamed al-Jishi, said Rajab is facing two trials: one on May 16th for his tweets, and one on May 22nd, for having participated in a protest in January.
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are expected to push toward a broad security and economic union today, an agreement that regional power Saudi Arabia hopes will spur a similar tightening of ties with other Gulf countries. Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman has welcomed the deal, saying the GCC must “concentrate during this period on achieving and ensuring security and increasing co-ordination in the fields of security, military and defence by adopting a unified Gulf security structure to protect the council’s states.” The Gulf Forum for Civil Societies, however, opposed the idea and asked for a postponement, adding, “We urge the Saudi and Bahraini leaderships to review such a step and calculate the reactions of the two peoples.” Mohammed al-Qahtani, a board member at the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, sees beyond the military and economic interests and said, “The real issue is the survival of these family-based regimes. That’s all it is – they will do whatever it takes to maintain the status quo but I think their time is running out.”
Patrick Cockburn describes the union as a “blow to the Shia protest movement,” and Michael Stephen agrees. “Any merger between the nations will be likely to inflame the delicate sectarian balance in the tiny Kingdom yet further,” Stephen says, ”a situation which requires genuine political reform, and not military and economic mergers.” David Roberts writes that there is still significant U.S. security involvement in the Gulf, and argues, “Only when America … finally leave[s] the Gulf will the Gulf States be truly forced to come to terms with their own security situation and will potentially countenance subsuming their national proclivities for a collective alliance.”