There is an interview with Collin Cavell, a professor at Holyoke Community College in Seattle, to elicit his opinions on the so-called national dialogue which has been described by some as a gesture to quiet down international criticism of the brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Persian Gulf littoral state.
Following is the text of the interview (also supported by Mohammed al-Maskati, head of the Youth Society on Human Rights in Manama and Raza Kazim with the Islamic Human Rights Commission in London).
Q: Mr. Cavell, despite human rights situation in Bahrain of the torture taking place reportedly of the political opposition members who are in prison and that is why they cannot join the national dialogue, now we are seeing however that the national dialogue has started. Al-Wefaq and Al-Waad, two of the opposition parties, have joined it.
Do you think this is however a step in the right direction or as some are calling it just a gesture to please the international community?
Cavell: Well, this national monologue is a one-way talk between the king and himself. It is not a dialogue, it is a sham, it is a farce and the only way that this supposed dialogue can have a positive outcome is if the regime makes the minimal concession of allowing the position of prime minister to be elected or placed by the largest electoral party or society in the National Assembly.
That is the minimal concession that will make any positive step forward. Other than that the entire monologue would be a sham.
Q: Let's see where this dialogue idea originally came from. Collin, is it, do you think, Washington that has advised the monarch now to open talks “with all options on the table” rather how strong an influence do you think the US has on the monarch's policies because we did see the very harsh crackdown on the protests which of course was supported from the (P) GCC [(Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council] members as well.
I'd like you to point to the US as well right here and tell us if you think this is some advice that the United States is currently giving the Bahraini monarch?
Cavell: Absolutely. I am quite sure that the United States has told crown prince Salman Bin Hammed bin Isa al-Khalifa as well as king Hammed the same thing that they must allow the position of prime minister to have some democratic aspect to it and the only way that the minimal possible way that can happen is to allow the largest party of the National Assembly to appoint the prime minister.
So for the US they have told this to the crown prince, they have told this to the king logically whether the two can do that and gang up on one of the richest men in the world is very questionable and I do not see it happening.
Q: Collin, the thing is what people and political observers have been saying is that the US is actually not looking for a regime change in Bahrain but it is looking for regime alteration.
What is the rationale behind the approach that the United States government is taking on Bahrain? Do you think it is looking for that regime alteration keeping the fundamentals of the structure of government rather than changing the regime?
Cavell: I am not saying that the US is an honest broker in this process. No, what it is looking for is to maintain its hegemonic control of the region and in order to do that it has to replace the autocratic leaders that has been supporting for the last 40 or 50 years with a new generation of leaders and they have to make some minimal window-dressing with democratic appendages to make it appear that it is popular and the minimal concession that must b made in Bahrain for there to be democratic peace and for there to be continued foreign investment in the country is for the position of prime minister to be appointed by the largest electoral party in the National Assembly.
Now that is what the US would ultimately like to happen otherwise there will be no civil peace in Bahrain and there will be a continuous decline in foreign direct investment in the country.
Q: Collin, do you think that the strategy that the Bahraini government is taking, the crackdown we are seeing it is continuing, do you think that this crackdown is going to continue or it might even lead to other serious military confrontations?
Cavell: Absolutely, the crackdown will continue, the arrests, the detentions, the disappearances of the anybody who opposes the regime will continue.
The dialogue as an attempt for the Bahraini regime to say the reconciliation is on the way and business is back to normal but as I said unless that minimal concession is made this national dialogue or as I call it 'monologue' will amount to nothing.