President Trump’s refusal to certify that Iran is abiding by its obligations from the 2015 nuclear deal has thrown much of the world into confusion, with some commentators criticizing Trump for undermining an international agreement which reduced the chance of a nuclear-armed Tehran; while others praised the President for addressing Iran’s misbehavior in the region. Here we look at a range of different scenarios which could result from this decision and the implications of these for the Arabian Gulf region: 

A more confrontational Iran

Iran usually responds to these kind of threats by taking an even more confrontational and prevocational approach. This may take the form of anti-American statements by Iranian leaders; but Iran may also increase its trouble-making in regional states. For example, Tehran has often threatened the US naval base in Bahrain, so Iran may signal its ability to exert its regional influence by increased support for Shia militants in Bahrain who have been responsible for the deaths of many policemen in terrorist bombings.

Within a couple of days of Trump’s statement, Iran mobilized its allies in Iraq to capture the city of Kirkuk and other areas under Kurdish control. Iranian militants are also confronting American-backed forces in eastern Syria.

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Parliament has a year to prove itself ahead of elections

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Following the customary lengthy summer break, many of us were interested to closely follow this week’s parliamentary session; expecting MPs to come back with fresh energy and with a pile of pressing issues to get stuck into.

Instead we were treated to a session with few matters deserving of mention and circular discussion of issues which didn’t seem to go anywhere. For example, a number of MPs such as cleric Majid al-Majid took the time to praise the Government for rejecting a proposal which had been written discussed and agreed on by MPs during the previous year which sought to ban strike action by workers at the aluminium company Alba.

Time was also spent discussing proposals concerning the lack of car parking spaces in Manama, the increasing cost of beach chalets. Deputies also lamented the fact that the Government had repeatedly vetoed most of the private bills which Parliament had submitted, proposing additional spending on youth clubs, community centres and other suggestions. There was also a bizarre discussion led by MP Abdulhamid al-Najjar about what brands of cleaning products were used in mosques and why those leading the call to prayer should play a role in cleaning their own mosque. 

A rather more relevant discussion was had about wrongfully-dismissed employees. MP Jalal al-Kadhim raised the issue of 40 employees who had reportedly been dismissed by a company which had already been failing to pay them for four months. A Ministry of Labour official expressed sympathy but said that this was an issue for the courts. He disputed claims by MPs that poor enforcement of such phenomena was leading to an epidemic of wrongful dismissal incidents.

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“Ignorance is the enemy of peace. It is, therefore, our duty to learn, to share, and to live together, by the tenets of faith in the spirit of mutual respect and love.” - His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. 

The article appearing in the Washington Times, written by the King of Bahrain, sets out a fresh and new vision which we are not accustomed to hearing in today’s Middle East. 

From the outset, the King of Bahrain states: “Our noble ancestors began this Bahraini tradition of churches, synagogues and temples being built next to our mosques, so there is no ignorance about others’ religious rites or practices. We all live together in peaceful coexistence in the spirit of mutual respect and love, and we believe it is our duty to share this with the world. We believe ‘ignorance is the enemy of peace,’ and that true faith illuminates our path to peace.”

The King stressed the importance of the recent “Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration”. This Declaration is a remarkable document, affirming the importance of a tolerant, diverse and multicultural society. This vision was drafted in consultation with Jewish and Christian scholars, along with Shia and Sunni clerics. 

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The 2014 Bahraini Parliament resumed on 8 October, for its final year of service prior to the 2018 elections. Here’s a snapshot of views expressed by Bahrainis about what they expect during the last round of this existing Parliament:

“The economy - and only the economy”

“Bahrain is lucky to have one of the most progressive parliamentary systems in the region. But Bahrainis now have to see why this matters. Deputies will get more support from the public when it becomes obvious what deputies do for them… Bahrainis spend a lot of time moaning about their deputies, which is perhaps fair, but it’s also rather unfair because they moan and moan without bothering to find out what is happening;” said Mona, aged 33 from Riffa.

“Every year, life seems to get more and more difficult. Prices are getting higher and wages stay the same, and more young people don’t have jobs – even some of the best graduates. It’s not like ten or 20 years ago. Deputies should deal with one issue and one issue only – the economy and only the economy;” said Ali, aged 23, from Manama.

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