- Bahraini Military Institution: Doctrine of Exclusion and Clientelism
- 1. The forgotten history of the military and security institutions
- 2. Military Doctrine of the Bahrain Defence Force
- 3. Military development of the Bahrain Defence Force
- 4. The composition of the Military Institution
- 5. Clientelist networks of the Military Institution
- 6. Arms Deals
Many social experts point out the possibility and the role of military forces on the integration and smelting of the individuals with different origins and different affiliations in one pot by virtue of the army on top of everything is a social institution that can in a nutshell on a national basis to reshape the individuals who enter it and allow them to create a sense of citizenship.
It is natural, then, to turn the functions of the national army and military forces from this function that confirms the democratic role for the members of the national group, to a function which protects the ruling elite or groups associated politically, and reduce the chances of democratic transition and consolidation, in case of taking the secondary loyalties as a substitute for the primary loyalty, which is the loyalty to the state’s general concept and the national community (in excess of the ruling elite) or favor a certain class at the expense of the other, then it would be the army at odds with building a safe and sound national unity.1
In this regard a preliminary classification of the Army Foundation built on its role and its relationship to the unity of the national community can be put, as in Table (1):
Table (1) Army patterns and their relationship to national identity
|Army Pattern||National Identity||Political System|
By virtue of the anxious nature to form a state in the Arab world in general, and the Gulf states in particular, the military has been exercising direct and lasting intervention in the internal affairs in favor of the ruling regimes, which made military and security institutions subjected to the roles of “clientele”, and the relationship of the interests and the protection and privileges correlate with elites ruling. And usually this relationship is reciprocal, so as that the military gives its full loyalty to the ruling elite in returns for the enjoyment by the members of this institution with the characteristics and privileges not available to other groups. For the ruling elite (non-democratic) to continue at the helm, it needs “organized military forces”; it could either be “Foreign (cooperated by national military forces security)” or “pure nationalist”. This provision can only be sentenced by an individual, family and the minority, who are protected by military forces and security, when its real enemy (and in times of distress and hardship in particular) is the ones who seek the restoration of the authority that was taken from in the past; and protected, too, with a weapon, “organized nutrition for anti-citizenship”; An individual rules in means of turning the society into individuals, if united then they will only including weaken “citizenship”, and lose strength.2 The first privileges is the undeclared and open budgets and its corrupted deals and bribes to buy weapons, concluding it with the authoritarian role of the individual in daily military transactions.
From an accurate and important angle, the legitimacy of the military institutions remain unseparated from the nature of legitimacy of other state institutions, the more there was democratic mechanisms for the political institutions the more the military establishment were under democratic regimes. And vice versa, if the authoritarian political system or competitive authoritarian, so they become authentic, neutral and cooperative only in political issues that are clean and fair which will be leading to the choice of the people, not the choice of the authoritarian or non-democratic elites.
On the other hand, the relationship between the military and the civilians is one of the particulars and functions of the military, because the historical military traditions are governing the conduct of the military which makes them either espouse their people or revert on them, and this so-called «enterprise culture», because what strengthens the relationship between the civilian and the military is common history and mutual recognition of what should be shared among them.3
This study attempts to examine the exclusionary pattern as an obstacle and a cause of disjoint to the construction of the national identity, through the structure which it is formed, as shown in Figure (1), Since the historical experience of this style is very poor… if not bad.
Thus, clientelism between it and the ruling elite becomes governing on all the interactive relations, which makes its construction based on particular groups without the others, and therefore the legitimacy of this type will depend on the nature of the legitimacy of the existing system.
1. The forgotten history of the military and security institutions
The Amiri decree issued in 1968, for the creation of the Bahrain Defence Force beginning of the modern phase to form a military force, and prior to this date… two historical phases existed: The first started in 1783 when the Al Khalifa tribe dominated Bahrain, and ended in 1867, after the British administration dismissed the ruler Mohammed bin Khalifa who was put on trial and was exiled from Bahrain, and then the inauguration of Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa as new governor to Bahrain.4
First Era: 1783-1867
The military force was a coalition of volunteer members from tribes that were allied with Al Khalifa tribe, and Bedouin tribes such as al-Noaimi formed an important aspect of this force, which were usually used in internal wars between the tribes and in the case of internal fighting between the wings Al Khalifa tribe itself.
The funding process was the distribution of the spoils and goods looted from those wars, such as money and gifts and exemptions from taxes and give more fragmented power to the leaders of those tribes, In many cases, and because of the large number of internal wars that have been witnessed in Bahrain (more than 15 wars during the period 1783 – 1846) the funding process used to occur through the imposition of additional taxes on civilians not involved in war or confiscation of their property and truncated portions from them 5, This has happened during the days of the governor Mohammed bin Khalifa, when he allowed the Bedouins who participated in the wars to pay themselves in Manama for six days to take whatever they want in exchange of their military participation.6
Second Era: 1867 – 1969
The political conditions required the British administration to impose protection treaties and implementation, in order to force political stability in the country through the abolition of the tribal military force and the start for the British defense of the territory of Bahrain without the need to build tribal alliances or the use of Bedouin tribes in the internal and external wars.
At the same time, Britain granted the permission for the governor of Bahrain to maintain a special military force known as “Al-Fedaweyah” who were assigned with the task of protecting the ruler and assisting in the easing up of the internal affairs of the country, but this force quickly turned into a power of coercion and control which was used to settle political and social issues.7 From the standpoint of the Bahrain Ministry of Interior, this force known as “Al-Fedaweyah” was considered the first nucleus to form what was known as in 1923 Police or police squad which was founded by Major Daley.8
Interestingly here, that the first police squad was composed of 200 foreigner police that had been employed in Muscat, and the police was made up from black Africans, Baluchis and different origins, some were speaking Swahili, which was learned by Belgrave (UK Chancellor for the ruler of Bahrain at the time) in East Africa.
As said by Belgrave who served as police chief, in his memoirs that “the police force included many low-ranking Indian soldiers and two former Indian Army officers, on top of that, the Punjab soldiers were perceived as foreign mercenaries highly paid for their work”. Belgrave states elsewhere, the revolution of divers which occurred in 1932, “The brother of the governor of Bahrain and Prince of Muharraq Island led a group of armed men,” and then confirms that fire was shot fiercely on the demonstrators by the police which included foreign soldiers (Indians), killing a number of demonstrating divers, and a number of police members were injured, so until 1956 more than three-quarters of the police were foreigners and uneducated.9
The structure of the institution of security (police) did not differ much from what it was at the beginning of its inception in terms of sheltering under a foreign element and over-reliance on hiring mercenaries to perform dirty security tasks. On the other hand, the effective and influential leadership remained to be exclusive for one category that was closely linked to the regime and the ruling family.
Under the urgency of the recommendations of the commission of inquiry that judged the need to reform the security apparatus and security doctrine, the Ministry of the Interior contracted with two senior police trainers as security advisors but the history of both was bad, and they were accused of security abuses in their country. In their days as security advisors, the Ministry of Interior renewed their oppressive ways that were represented in adopting the following policies:
- The policy of collective punishment
- The policy of torture and arbitrary detention
- The policy of impunity
- The policy of targeting active and human rights figures.
The military and security forces maintained their quantitative superiority and they were better equipped physically and economically, with an estimated number of members in all five security services to more than 30 thousand people as Ministry of Interior forces, National Guard, Bahrain Defence Force and National Security and intelligence services, while the number of citizens does not exceed 700 thousand citizens which is approximately 5% of the number of citizens. At the same time, the majority of these forces consist of foreigners contracted from Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Yemen and Sudan. In the same context the security and military institutions budget is still top of the general state budget expenses, it is shown that the percentage of military spending is more than 25% of the general budget. The attention and care by the system to the security services and the military to continue to strengthen and protect is explained by several things, such as:
- Monopolizing the leadership and senior positions by members of the ruling family and many of the tribes that are allied with the ruling family became a part in the management and supervision of these forces and.
- Continuation of the political protests and the difficulty to control in the absence of political solutions and the rejection of such solutions by the system.
- To secure and protect the regime internally and externally in turbulent political situations whether they were internal or regional.
And therefore the historical legacy of the military and security institutions did not contain what helps to prevent these institutions from being criticised and put a fair trial because of the many violations attributed to its members, violations that reach to criminal offenses, crimes against humanity, crimes of torture, forced disappearances and systematic murder. This means that the relationship between the citizens and these institutions remain negative and unable to achieve the most important part of the national identity, a full integration between the citizens on the one hand and the ability for the state institutions to represent these citizens.
The Arab military institutions despite the observations, it has a reasonable amount of national partnership as in the experience of the Egyptian army in the Suez War and the War of Liberation, as well as the Tunisian army and even the Iraqi army, which underwent a lot of successive political regimes ideologies. While the Bahraini army and security institutions still lack such national unity and continued to strengthen its deep partnership with the system and the ruling family, either through appointing certain people and monopolizing important positions or through bad practices exercised by the security services since it was formed until now.
1 Abdulsalam Al-Baghdadi, National Unity and the problem of the Minorities in Africa, Center for Arab Unity Studies, Beirut, 1993 pg 256-259.
1 Abdulsalam Al-Baghdadi, National Unity and the problem of the Minorities in Africa, Center for Arab Unity Studies, Beirut, 1993 pg 256-259.
2 Jawad Al-Beshaiti, Armies from the Arab Spring point of view, an article published in Al-Watan – Qatari Newspapers, August 28th 2012.
3 Tariq bin Al-Haj Mohammad, Introduction to understand the role of armies in the Arab revolutions (2), an article published in Al-Sabah – Tunisian newspaper, October 27th 2011.
4 James Onley & Sulayman Khalaf,Shaikhly Authority in the Pre-oil Gulf:An Historical–Anthropological Study.History and Anthropology, Vol. 17, No. 3,September 2006, pp. 189–208.
5 James D. Fearon, David D. Laitin, Ethnicity, Insurgency and Civil War: Bahrain,Stanford University. June 2005.
6 For the details of this era, see: Abbas Al-Murshed, Bahrain in the Gulf guide, Dar Fradis, Beirut 2011. See also: May Al-Khalifa Parallel History, Al-Dar Al-Arabiya for distribution and publishing, Beirut, 2004.
7 Fuad Ishaaq Al-Khoori, The Tribe and The State in Bahrain, The Arabic Institute for development, Beirut, 1983.
8 See the official webpage for The Ministry of Interior, History of Police in the Kingdom of Bahrain, link: (http://www.interior.gov.bh/history.aspx) and for more history abt the police in Bahrain, See: Abdullah Al-Ghanim, Aspects from the History of Police in Bahrain, 2000.
9 Charles Belgrave, Diary of Belgrave, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Beirut, 2010. and The Personal Diary of Charles Belgrave, as well as May Al-Khalifa, Charles Belgrave Biography and Memoirs, Al-Dar Al-Arabiya for distribution and publishing, Beirut.
2. Military Doctrine of the Bahrain Defence Force
Since the establishment of the Bahrain Defence Force a military doctrine has been taken that was based on the full and absolute loyalty to the political and military leadership, whatever the circumstances or causes, bringing the army take the doctrine of absolute defense for the royal family and certain figures who are considered to be close friends to the ruling family.
According to preliminary information for the establishment of the Bahrain Defence Force, it’s shown that the need for such force was due to personal needs more than political or military needs, in September 1967 Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the eldest son of the ruling Isa bin Salman (1934-1999) joined a course in Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, Hampshire and graduated in February 16, 1968, following his return to Bahrain, he developed a plan for the establishment of the Bahrain Defence Force, which has been strengthened by a princely patent in the beginning of the month of August 1968, Sheikh Hamad then led the Department of Defence and became a member of the State Council, which was founded in the 19th of January 1970, and then became Minister of Defense until the formation of the Council of Ministers on 15 August 197110, during that period, Bahrain was still under British protection, and it can’t be ascertained that the British administration allowed to form this Department, and whether it is a part of the post-withdrawal plan, which was announced by the end of 1968.
Some researchers believe that the military institutions in the Arab Gulf states despite their latest military equipment and weapons and despite the huge budgets11, yet are considered as weak armies in combat experience, when these armies, including the Bahraini army did participate in any real war except for its unique participation in the Second Gulf War, a weak participation compared with the key participants in that war which were the international coalition forces led by the United States of America.
Beside this combat or military weakness, there is another weakness more influential on the internal level of the national identity, as it is believed by some that there is a fear lurking in ruling families of the growing role of the military and its prominence as an independent or competent force, these systems adopted the strategy not to strengthen the army by means of number of soldiers and especially not qualify them to undergo real combat missions, as well as giving the leadership to the members of the royal family with no military competence, but they guarantee their control and loyalty, also, turning the military into the field to reap large sums of money to their leaders through shady arms deals.
At the same time another military department was built which was the National Guard as a competent institution that can be resorted to in the event of a revolution by the soldiers. But what’s even more important than Al-Saidawi’s point of view, is the focus of all these establishments on the internal security, where external security was left for the royal family’s alliance with the United States within the framework of the historic agreement (oil-for-security)12. These armies13 were not designed primarily to perform any combat missions outside the border, as it was established on the floor of the simulation and the race to build military arsenal on the one hand, and to provide the frontline of dealing with internal unrest and troubled internal situations.
The army or the armed forces in these cases do not seem as an independent, corporate and institutional figure, where the upper and middle leaders of royal families, mostly get good academic qualifications, especially from Western schools.14
As a result, the combat doctrine of the Bahraini Army started focusing on the principle of constant fear and taking into account the possibility that the ruling regime and the ruling family will be subjected to interior threats by opposition groups at any time, as well as being based on the advancement of certain forces in the military compared to other forces, such as the advancement of the Air Force more than the Armored force, and the Armored force more than the Marine Corps.
The Bahraini military’s combat doctrine is fed by mono religious concepts, predominantly by Salafi religious concepts, clearly before and after the revolution of February 14, 2011. This trend is particularly evident in the continuing sponsorship for Quran memorization and recitation competitions for the members of the Bahrain Defense Force, and the control of Salafis on the Directorate of religious instruction in the Defence Force, and printing Salafi issues glorifying the idea of absolute obedience to the guardian and its sanctity, as well as the jurisprudence regarding demonstrations and protests, which are the fatwas issued by the institution of religious fatwa in Saudi Arabia.
In fact, the insistence of the political system in Bahrain on saying that there are security threats coming from Iran have been enhanced with the proliferation and expansion of sectarian tension after the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, and the official as well as the unofficial media helped in consolidating convincing others that the Iranian threat won’t come externally, but it is an internal threat led by Shiite opposition groups, and this created an intersection between the army doctrine based on absolute loyalty to the regime as well as the kings and protecting them from any internal dangers, and between the search for the credibility of these dangers and applying them against certain political groups. This propensity or habitus, according to Pierre Bourdieu, “Tends to generate routes that serve as a tool for social life that makes its members look to others and to the whole world differently from a certain angle and a certain social psychological charge.” So, it shapes everyone’s awareness, their behavior and their actions with a set of values, customs and traditions that ensure the proper functioning of society, and working on its sustainability through strict social control, which a special force is authorized to impose his respect, voluntarily or forcibly, to everyone, under the direct supervision of the center of power.15
Such doctrine leads the armed forces to fall into the obscene discrepancy between what it was established on and what is required from them politically, the main task of the armed forces goes mainly to the protection of the state, land, sea and air, against foreign hostilities, it also contributes to the protection of internal constitutional legitimacy of the state and the gains of the people, in matters that are over the civil police power, in the absence of National Guard forces and in crisis management, especially in the case of natural disasters and major accidents. But the nature of the organization and how well the armed forces are equipped, proportional to major combat missions on the battlefield, land, sea and air,would not allow them to do the tasks of the police or riot police. This was proven by the events of February 14, as these forces found themselves unable to cope with the situation alone, either for political or ethnic reasons, so foreign aid was asked for, where the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Peninsula Shield forces intervened.16
10 Bahrain News Agency (BNA), Biography of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, December 17, 2011, link: http://bna.bh/portal/news/485567
11 the Arab states in 1997 spent upto $ 35.7 billion, and the largest share was from the Gulf, where they spent 11.4% of GDP, and this figure rose after one year which means in 1998 to $ 38.7 billion, and since 2003 to 2012, expenditures amounted to armament in Gulf states nearly 15 billion, and only Saudi spent about $ 7.7 billion.
12 Riyadh Al-Saidawi, Army Sociology: Why don’t Saudi establish the strongest Army in the Middle East, Riyadh Al-Saidawi’s Blog http://rsidaoui.blogspot.com.
13 This situation is quite different from the situation of Arab armies such as the Egyptian army, the Iraqi or Syrian army and other regional armies such as the Turkish army or the Iranian army. The Turkish military, for example is keen to respond to the developments in Turkish society, and to remain a major guarantor of the principles and teachings of the state, as Ataturk founded since 1923, and was the main military base. The central role of the Turkish military back to what defined by the Constitution and laws, and also, to the heritage of the teachings and principles that the military elite was being taught over the past eight decades.
14 General A. H. Mohammad Qashqoosh, military – civil relations: the “seven” problems facing the armies of the Arab revolutions, Journal of International Politics, No.188 – Ahram Center for Studies, Cairo, Egypt.
3. Military development of the Bahrain Defence Force
Sociologically, The structural development of the Army sheds light on the nature of the relationship between the army and the civil society through the development of the technological and military codes. The Bahraini armed forces underwent a sophisticated structural development in the royal systems that rely on maximizing power and inflate its technological size, yet maintaining it weak in political and social terms.
At the same time some observers believe that the Bahraini army has limited ability in the maintenance of modern military equipment, and as evaluated by researchers, the Bahraini army can not carry out tasks outside the country’s borders.
The sponsorship for the development and to diversify the army units as well as inflating the military arsenal was by King Hamad bin Issa, who took over the supervision of the army development since 1969, where the first batch of recruits graduated in February 1969 which was mechanized infantry battalion.
In 1976 what is known as the special force unit was formed and entrusted with the task of protecting the governor and the political system, and were given specialized courses. The first batch of commandos graduated on the fourteenth of December 1976, followed by many other batches.
In 1970 a military unit under the name Royal armor was formed by an order from King Hamad (Commander-in-Chief and crown prince back then), the royal shield is one of the main pillars in the defense force, and this unit also used “TU” rocket launchers.
In addition to this unit, another unit under the title Royal Amiri Guard was formed in the first of February 1972, this unit (Royal Guards) gained the interest of King Hamad as well as his sponsorship and was provided with all the necessary weapons and equipment, the unit’s main weapon was the Salahuldeen Tank supplied with 76 mm cannon, and Fert Detector which is used in reconnaissance and surveillance as well as being armed with medium machine guns, although now, this unit is equipped with the most modern weaponry such as 60 mm Tanks, Helicopters, Cannons and other modern weapons.
Table (2) shows the evolutionary path that the armed forces are built on, where it is shown that the period from (1970 to 1976) was the main period for diversifying the units of the armed forces and the stage where nearly a third of the state budgets will be consumed for the coming years.
As it can be easily convinced that the personal patronage of the King for the Armed Forces creates either directly or indirectly a clientele relationship with a foundation of strong, full and comprehensive care by the monarch in exchange for absolute loyalty and obedience by the armed forces.
Table (2) Military development of the Bahrain Defence Force
|Established in 1974|
|the arming of this unit with rocket launchers (rbs) and anti-aircraft cannons such as the 35mm cannon, and it is one of the anti-aircraft weapons that work under radar guidance, then the 40 mm anti-aircraft cannon entered service in the unit, after that the latest range of anti-aircraft weapons such as Stinger and Krutal misslies and finally, Hawks, that is considered to be one of the latest air defense weapons.|
|Established between 1974 and 1979|
|On March 20, 1979 the ship of the Kingdom of Bahrain “Zubara” was launched, the first warship in the Defence Force. Then a set of small boats joined the service.|
On the seventh of February 1985 the ship of the Kingdom of Bahrain “Jaberi” was launched and the naval base building was opened, the number of the members in the Naval force is 1200, and Bahrain has three main battle ships as well as coastal patrol and battle boats.
Royal Air Force
|Established in 1976|
|The number of members in the Air Force is 1500, the total number of combat aircrafts is 33 and the total number helicopters 47.|
In October 1974 the General Command of the Defence Force sent the first batch of pilots to study the science of aviation, the numbers of Bahraini Air Force members increased from 450 in 1990 to 1,500 in 2006.
In May 1990, modern F-16 fighters entered service in the Royal Bahraini Air Force as well as Black Hawk and Cobra helicopters. We find a significant increase in the number of F-16 fighters, from 12 in 1990 to 21 in 2006.
It was expanded through the establishment of clinics in the camps and the a medical company in 1974.
In February 5, 1979, the military hospital was opened, which costed about six million dinars over an area of one million and three hundred square feet.
On the third of March 1992 a new building was opened in the military hospital which consisted of nine suites spread over three floors with the capacity of 34 beds per wing. On the same day 03/03/1992 the center of Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa for hearts was opened.
15 Frederick Matouk, knowledge, society and history, Gros Press, 1991, Tripoli, Lebanon, p: 62.
16 General A. H. Mohammad Qashqoosh, military – civil relations: the “seven” problems facing the armies of the Arab revolutions, Journal of International Politics, No.188 – Ahram Center for Studies, Cairo, Egypt.
4. The composition of the Military Institution
Supreme Commander is King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Deputy Supreme Commander is the lieutenant general Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force is the lieutenant general Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.
The king stands at the head of all security services in terms of their responsibility in front of him and his responsibility in the selection of security leaders and its confinement within his powers, the king is who appoints ministers, including the interior minister and defense minister, and with his command royal orders are issued for the formation of the National Guard, National Security Agency and the general command of the Arml. Thus, the King practices all security roles across the ministers and presidents who are appointed according to royal decrees and orders.
By virtue of a historical legacy overlapping with the traditional nature of the political system, it is very difficult to determine the real structure of the military establishment and identify the sources of the actual decision. Decision-making centers are overlapped and the implementation mechanisms are complicated because of the prevailing liquidity in the general composition of the military establishment. Thus, the legal structural function becomes a support function to the balance of power hidden and announced within the decision-making institutions in the state.
The Article 17 of the Decree Law (9) for the year 1989 on the validity of the Commander in Chief in the Bahrain Defence Force (the officer, who is appointed by an Emiri / Royal Order to carry out leadership Defence Force) points out to come up with proposals for decrees and laws needed to organize the Bahrain Defence Force and everything related to their management17, and the trace of the formation of the overall structure of the military establishment and the large number of new and amended laws regarding the affairs of the armed forces shows that the process of structural building is still volatile and capable of being changed by the ups and downs of the balances of the active powers in the political system. For example, when the power of the parliamentary institution has stepped up in the House of Representatives (2006-2010) with the entry of the opposition parties and calling for questioning the budget of the Bahrain Defence Force, the King issued a royal order (2/2008) stating the appointment of Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, commander in chief of the Bahrain Defence Force after he was secretary of defense, where the position was replaced with Minister of State for Defence, in a move to keep Marshal Khalifa bin Ahmed away from potential questioning by the House of Representatives, as was interpreted by this action, that the role of the Khawaled wing was growing in positions of influence and power within the royal family.
In February 2011 the king issued a royal order to upgrade the Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force Khalifa bin Ahmed to the rank of Marshal, to coincide with the nominal changes issued by the King with respect to the rest of the ruling family and appointing them as princes.
Similarly, the king issued a decree law (38) of 2002 preventing members of the National Guard to run for parliamentary and municipal councils, at the same time the head of the National Guards was given the right to vote by regulations and instructions issued. Which several observers considered is as a political way to use of the National Guard and the Bahrain Defence Force Personnel in the new political competition.
As another example that can be invoked, the situation subsequent to the lifting of the state of national safety (state of emergency), and the return of Marshal Khalifa bin Ahmed to his military barracks after being a military governor throughout the period of the National Safety, the military and the security role of the Bahrain Defence Force represented in the General Command stopped after the issuance of the report of the commission inquiry committee and converting all the military prosecution cases to civil justice, However, the commanding general of the Bahrain Defence Force Marshal Khalifa kept exercising a number of political roles every now and then through press statements and interviews with different civilian personalities. For example, the Marshal conducted an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper published in the local press in which he stated that he is always ready to return to the street if the protest movement went backto the level it was in February and March 2011. The Marshal also held personal meetings with MPs, journalists and social figures.
On the other hand, the Bahrain Defence Force had political support by the king many times which reflected the dependence of the King on the military institution. The King’s statement about the remarks of the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman in the sixth annual Wefaq Society conference revealed the amount of influence of the army’s power in the political decision making, where the Ministry of Interior after the meeting of the King with the Marshal banned all political activities arranged by the opposition societies for more than two months as a punishment against the remarks of the secretary general that challenged the Marshal and imaginary achievements.
And we will try to review here two levels of the structure of the military establishment as a test to the previous point of view.
The First Level: Structural Side
Meaning the legal and administrative institutions that make up the supreme military establishment as well as the Armed Forces (Bahrain Defense Force) and it comprises of:
Supreme Defense Council
The Supreme Defense Council is considered as the supreme active force in the decision making process in the military and security, and all the security and military institutions are subjected to those decisions. Founded in 1973 and was in its first form subjected to the prime minister in accordance to Article 4 of Decree Law No. (24) for the year 1973. The council in its first form was primal to the new administrative transition of the state after independence. But the developments in the internal and regional situations after the second Gulf War necessitated the development of that formula to others which were more militant as well as devoting the effective monopolization of the power sources. a Royal Order was issued in 2003 to reshape the Supreme Defence Council in accordance with a clear militant and security form where the re-formation of the Council, chaired by the King (the Supreme Commander of the Bahrain Defence Force), the members of the Council of Ministers, the Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of the Interior, the Minister of the Royal Court, the Minister of Defense, Deputy Commander General, Head of the National Guards, head of the national Security Agency, chief of staff and the Minister of the Media, as well as for the headquarters of the Council to be the Royal Court, rather than the Council of Ministers, on the other hand, competencies gave the council broad powers including overseeing military operations inside and outside the Kingdom, the approval of the state of national safety and martial law, the adoption of defensive war and overseeing the coordination between the various military and defensive forces.
The mechanism for the formation of the Supreme Defence Council remained fixed since its establishment in 1973 without legal change in the methods of appointment, the way monopolization occurs among the members of the royal family, which makes the presence of the Supreme Defense Council as a security front for the system under a small country that considers its security threatened by both internal and external threats.
The council had decided to face the revolution of February 14, 2011 and the implications of the Arab Spring through the adoption of the decree for the National Safety Law and conducting miniature crisis board meetings on daily basis to discuss the reports and military plans, supervision and following-up of the operations that was carried out by the security services. In the same context the members of the Board of Directors for the crisis, which was immediately formed after the announcement of the imposition of the National Safety Law in March 2011, immuned from the accountability in accordance with the policy of impunity.
The decree law was established in 1997 and led to appointing Mohammed bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the king’s brother as its major general. Article 2 of the Law states that the National Guard is an armed, organized and independent military force, its also considered as a military depth of the Bahrain Defence Force, as well as being a protective shield for the public security forces to defend, protect and maintain the security and territorial integrity of the country.
The estimated number of members under this configuration with about 4 thousand members, a large portion of whom are foreign. Where Section 41 of the Act of the National Guard allows the Chief of the National Guard to recruit people with professions needed by the National Guard in all the jobs of the following categories:
- Bahraini staff and civilian workers.
- Foreign staff and civilian workers.
- Foreign military staff.
Meanwhile the military doctrine, which dominates the members of the National Guard, the section contained in article 44 of the same law combines the loyalty to the Kingdom of Bahrain and devotion to the king as well as obedience and immediate implementation of orders and in every time and place.
National Security Apparatus
The National Security Apparatus was established by Royal Decree No. 14 of the year 2002 as an alternative to the state security apparatus, which was abolished in 2000 and was replaced by the National Security Law. The role of the National Security Apparatus was inflated since 2006 to become the alternative security force for all the security institutions of the Ministry of Interior, and kept coordinating their operations with the Royal Court and the Supreme Defence Council.
The inflation reached very high levels in influencing and controlling all political issues and continuous protests since 2006. By doing so the National Security headquarters turned into a building for torture and investigations in a violation of all human rights.
In the events of the 14 Feb revolution, the national security apparatus played a larger role in the repression, persecution, detention and torture, which caused that the report of the commission of inquiry accounted the officials in the national security responsible, as well as reducing the absolute powers given to the apparatus.
In subsequent changes based on the results of the report of the Independent Commission for Inquiry, King Hamad bin Isa bin Khalifa entrusted the tasks of the presidency of the National security apparatus to someone from outside the ruling family, where he issued a royal decree to appoint Major General Adel bin Khalifa Fadhil as head of the National Security succeeding Sheikh Khalifa bin Abdullah (a member of the Khawaled branch of the ruling family), who was appointed as the Secretary General of the Supreme Defense Council in Bahrain and an advisor to the king for National Security Affairs.
The Bahraini King limited the tasks of the Apparatus to the collection of information and not to take over the arrest and interrogation of individuals, the amendment about the tasks of the National security apparatus comes as a response to one of the recommendations of the Independent Commission for Inquiry.
Although a royal decree was issued to the removal of the head of the National Security Apparatus and reducing the powers of the Apparatus to the intelligence side, except that, the former president was promoted from his position rather than judicial accountability for crimes and violations which was caused by elements from the apparatus in as well as before and after the national safety period. A remarkable return of the National Security Apparatus was seen by the Security Services, through the presence of elements in civilian clothing in the suppression of peaceful marches and protests notably on (Friday of breaking the siege) in the capital Manama.
The tasks of the Apparatus were given back when the criminal investigations department returned to its intelligence activity and the detention for short periods before transferring detainees to the public prosecution and detaining them at the dry dock.
The National Security Apparatus became active in the prosecution of activists as well as tightening on them during their visits to other countries and preventing them from entering certain countries, including Egypt and the Gulf states. Defamation practices were attributed to the Apparatus, as well as fabricating scandals for some activists and blackmailing many of them.
The Second Level: The Human Element
The Bahraini Army currently consists of about 11 thousand soldiers18, the Bahraini troop numbers continued to rise, the Bahraini army isn’t any different from the armies of the Gulf states in their large dependence on foreign elements, especially in the level of individuals and limiting the officer ranks to descendents from branches of the royal family or those who are completely loyal, through the monopolization of the appointment and promotion of officers to the royal orders.
The foreign component in the armed forces
Humanity has known the phenomenon of mercenaries since ancient times, and history books reveal that the Roman Empire is the first who used the idea of paying fighters to carry out the invasion and occupation, most of them were not nationals of Rome, such as the Teutons and Slavs, some say that the use of mercenaries go back to the era of the Greek Empire, however, the emergence of the idea of foreign fighters in the ranks of the army of the state, who aren’t nationals began to emerge clearly since the twelfth century and the beginning of the thirteenth century, when mercenaries were used and formed the majority of the armies fighting in colonial invasions operations. The phenomenon of mercenaries started to shrink and its importance became less at the beginning of the eighteenth century after the emergence of nationalism and the principle of citizenship and creating the organizational soldier, where the recruiting became limited to citizens only, because they are who should take the duty to defend their homelands, and the state ensures to pay their monthly salaries on its own.
From legal view, the Bahraini Constitution in Article (16) bans giving foreigners a public office except in cases prescribed by law, as stipulated in the conditions of service set by committees of individuals in the Bahrain Defence Force and National Guard that whoever applies has to carry a Bahraini nationality without reference to being an original Bahraini or naturalized.
Usually the sectarian affiliation in these particular elements is taken into account, where there is no Shiite elements at all. For example, the origins of the Arab elements in the armed forces and the National Guard and Public Security return to Syria, Jordan and Yemen, and it’s believed that the selection processes are not random, but the tribal configuration especially in the Arabian Peninsula is taken into account, where there still are tribal elements that maintain their cultural and social formations such as the Aydat tribe; a tribe widespread in Jordan, as well as Deir al-Zour in Syria and now they represent the largest number of Arab elements in the military and security forces.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has pointed out in 2011 that the Bahraini authorities continues to bring more ex-soldiers from Pakistan to work in the National Guard. The center said in a statement that a recruitment advertisement was published in a Pakistani recruitment website known of its links to the Pakistani army under the title: “urgent job opportunities for the Bahraini National Guard”.
The advertisement also stated about vacancies in the various fields for former employees of the Pakistan Army; including riot police trainers, emergency of coaches, retired infantry officers and members of the military police. It was also announced that a delegation from the Bahraini National Guard will visit Pakistan between 7 to 14 March 2011 for the purpose of the selection of the candidates there.
A different but similar advertisement was published in the “Daily Jang” a widespread Pakistani newspaper on the first of March 2011, sources said to the center that about 800 Pakistani were hired, and large numbers of non-Bahrainis were employed in the Bahraini police, the army and the National Guard, mostly from Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Jordan.
According to some historical sources, in a sign of profound connection with the intensive presence of Balochi element in the military and security forces now, which is that the royal family hired a private military force of Baloch since the mid-nineteenth century, where those sources state that the Baloch tribes such as the family of Yousif bin Ahmed bin Fadel, the family of Al Barakat and the family of Rashid bin Saeed participated with Al-Khalifa the in the their internal and external. Interestingly here that Baluch tribesmen were among the approved types for the Gulf rulers as loyal combatants and can be relied upon in wars and skirmishes. Sheikh Mubarak Al-Sabah and the Sultans of Oman used to depend on them a lot in controlling the internal security and guarding the borders.
Researcher Abdulla Saif points out in his article on the history of the Baloch in Bahrain that they and since ancient times practiced military actions, escorting the royal family, making and refining daggers and falconry which is loved by Arab tribes, especially the ruling family.
One of the Baloch leaders who stood with Al Khalifa was Commander Ahmad Murad Al Balushi, who died after the Al-Khalifa entry to the country in 1788. After the stability of the security in the country and the fact that the Baloch were tough warriors, they lived in Bahrain’s castles, such as Arad Fort, the Court Castle and Bomaher Castle.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa (brother of the ruler of Bahrain back then, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa) married the daughter of Dawood Bin Abdul Qadir Al Balushi (granddaughter of Haj Juma bin Jalal) and lived with her in Busaiteen in a neighborhood that was known as the Baluch neighborhood. As Sheikh Abdullah bin Homoud Al Khalifa married the daughter of Abdul Qadir bin Fadel Al Balushi.
The national component in the armed forces
Although there are constitutional provisions that equal the citizens rights and duties as well as prohibiting discrimination on illegal grounds, but the Supreme Defence Council in addition to the individual committees in the armed forces and the National Guard prohibit hiring or accepting some national groups, such as those who belong to the Shiite sect, and sometimes some who belong to what is known as Howala (Sunnis of Iranian descent), this does not preclude the presence of Shiite elements within the officers of low levels, and there would rarely be Shiite officers or officers of Howli descent.
And this is confirmed in tracking the lists of officers who royal orders and are issued against to upgrade their position or giving them military honors, where we looked at more than four lists in the period (1986-2012) and the result was the control of those belonging to Arab tribes loyal to the ruling family and the element that come from Baluchi origins, as well as Arab tribes coming from Jordan, Syria and Yemen.
As a natural result, the widespread use of competitive authoritarian mechanisms causes to exclude groups and residents of the areas of legitimacy and citizenship, a process that requires a multifaceted intervention intended for screening, expelling, scanning and disciplining those considered to be High Risk Populations.
According to this path (exclusion), the provision of employment, public and social goods and cultural orientation by the state creates a desire to exercise a state of exception, in order to find different categories of the population corresponding to different gradients of citizenship. and then the citizenship relationship becomes an exclusionary force that the methods and processes that are secured by the state legitimacy in the eyes of the people that they govern are integrated. Citizenship also becomes the center of the strategies legitimacy, including the shifting of the political groups and identities, and the distribution and redistribution of rights, responsibilities and resources, as well as negotiations on the representation and participation.20
17 Article (17) of the Legislative Decree No. (9) of 1989 on the Bahrain Defence Force.
18 The Independent Commission of Inquiry report, Bahrain 2011
19 Abdullah Saif, History of Baloch in Bahrain, an article published in Al-Ahd Bahraini Newspaper, 11 May 2010
20 Myriam Catusse, “Bringing the State Back in? Une perspective régionale des Rôles de l’Etat dans les Transformations sociales,” (Unpublished paper, 2008)
5. Clientelist networks of the Military Institution
Clientelist networks are known to be personal dependency relationships that have nothing to do with family ties, it is based on mutual benefits between two people in two unbalanced locations in terms of resources, the teacher and the customer.
Political clientelism means the dependency of ordinary people to a politician on the basis of mutual benefits, so they stand on his side, especially in the elections, so they vote for him to get his services in exchange when necessary, thats when they become become political clients to him.
Clientelism is highlighted as a relational pattern in the political, economic, social and religious organizations in the community, where the society has been obliged by the state, which is the most dangerous in the legitimate path.21
In the case of Bahrain, the military institution builds a wide clientelist networks for all its members, especially since the military institutions decisions include personal details of the individual, the internal regulations forbids the marriage any military component without the approval of top leaders or individuals committees, the individual may have the choice between resignation or to submit to the decision of the committee in the case of non-approval of the wife.
Article 50 of the law on the National Guard forbids officers and individuals from:
A) Dealing with the following political and trade union matters:
- Establishing a political organization or joining one.
- Exercising political and trade union matters.
- Participating in demonstrations, protests, civil unrest and political or union meetings.
- Doing electoral advertisements or distributing political or union publications.
B) Dealing in all matters incompatible with military work and in particular:
- Criticizing the work of the leaders of the National Guard.
- Public speaking.
- Participating in providing collective claims.
- Distribution of publications or submitting petitions or messages against the state.
- Publishing or transferring military information, which should remain confidential in its nature or that was issued on its confidentiality special instructions without permission.
- Keeping any transaction or official paper that is prohibited to keep, contrary to the rules and regulations relating thereto.
- Carrying out any press related actions without announcing it.
- Joining associations, clubs and sports,social and professional institutions, without permission. And it doesn’t depend on getting the permission, the right to stand for managerial and executive positions, or their acceptance, as this requires it to obtain a permission.
- Leaving the job without announcing it.
C) Doing business, and the following special interests:
- Doing business on their own or in their name.
- Carrying out financial speculations and trade on their own or in their name.
- Accepting to be agents for others, in things that have to do with their job duties.
- Accepting gifts, grants, aid or any material or moral advantage from the owners of the companies or institutions associated with commercial or industrial contracts with the National Guard.
Against this vital, behavioral and cultural setting, the military institution work to provide its members with special projects in housing, health and trade, we will take the example of the housing issue and how clientelist networks are established within backed with military settings.
There are many residential projects22 provided by the Bahrain Defence Force for its members, including: building six residential homes for senior officers in the year 1976, it formed a temporary solution for them so that they can benefit from the housing services. In 1979, the force launched a housing project, and it contained 138 houses. In 1984, the Defence Force housing project has been completed providing 206 houses, bringing the project to the total of 344 houses. In the same year officers apartments were built and they contained 12 apartments, and in 2001 54 luxury apartments were built for officers in Riffa. From 1976 to 1993, the Housing Ministry to gives at least 100 houses from all residential projects to employees of the Bahrain Defence Force.
Wadi Al-Sail Project is considered to be one of the largest housing projects, which the Bahrain Defence Force invested in it23 for the satisfaction of its members, the project included housing units reserved for officers and other individuals, and the number of people benefited from this project is 774 officers and personnel. The number of housing units given to officers is 478 units, while the residential units given to non-commissioned officers is 296 housing units, while the facilities associated with the project included a group of high class equipment and beautiful gardens, in addition to providing supermarkets and a commercial complex located in the middle of the project which meets the needs of the residents, as well as Mosques that occupy a large numbers of worshipers.24
Because of the influence and the exception, the Salmabad housing project was dedicated for employees of the Bahrain Defence Force, but from future projects, there is the Zayed City project that contains 217 residential units, along with housing plans in the same area.
The Ministry of Housing in February 2011 launched a tender for the construction of 198 housing units in Hamad Town (roundabout 18) for the employees of the Bahrain Defence Force with the budget of $ 7 million and 300 thousand dinars. 25
In 2006, directives were issued to bring down half of the housing and retirement loans, as well as half of the internal loans and replacement for employees of the Bahrain Defence Force, and that was the result of a high-leveled military meeting chaired by the Minister of Defense Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed and senior leaders of the military units to inform them with these guidelines. varying reactions were raised demanding comprehension, (Al-Ayam) newspaper stated that it had received hundreds of calls from government officials and the private sector complaining that the exemption was limited to military sectors without civil and governmental ones.
21 Fdhail Dlio, Political and Social Clientelism in the Age of Democracy, Arabic Magazine for Political Science, Number 17, Winter of 2008, pg. 171 – 174
22 The number of housing services that have been provided to the citizens since 1999 until now is about 46 662 housing services and the number of housing units that have been allocated to citizens during that period reached 18393, and housing plans 6106, freehold apartments 1930, and the number of housing loans 20233.
23 Bahrain News Agency (BNA) A Report on the achievements of the Bahrain Defence Force in its 44th Anniversary of Establishment, 3 February 2012.
24 Al-Bilad Bahraini Newspaper, Wadi Al-Sail was Inaugurated in the 43rd Anniversary of the Defence Force with the most updated ways, 774 officer and individual benefiting from the biggest Housing Project for “the Defence”, Monday 7 February 2011.
6. Arms Deals
The frequent reports about what is going on in the lower world contributes to the arms trade, and the inability to assess the actual or supposed performance for the armies during the war, to provoke a “gray” situation, and sometimes underrating national accounts of armament and arms deals.
Impression is that there is an overflow in “the usual limit” of arms for the armies of the Arab Gulf states, including Bahrain, and there are common explanations for linking arms deals with all Arab countries with all perceived factors, usually undisciplined, except for the defensive factor. There is an artificial ambiguity about the facts relating to the way they take their weaponry decisions, whether in terms of the exceeding arms commissions, or its relationship with internal balances.
The Bahraini spending on defense and security is stable since 2000 at about 23% of the total annual budget, as is evident from Table (3), and through it we can say that the role of the Ministry of Defence has increased in the last ten years in the budget of the projects assigned to the defense force, as it can be seen depending on the data in Table (3):
- The defense and security spendings maintain a fixed amount of the state budget, estimated at about 1/5 of the national income, even if the revenue rose, the share of defense and security rise immediately.
- Comparing this spending with the service-spending such as housing, education and health, we find that the defense and security expenditure to equivalent to the ministries of health, housing and education.
Table (3) State Budgets for the years 2000-2011 and the spendings of defense and security, as well as special projects for the Ministry of Defence
Income statement balance for the years 2000-2011 (BHD)
Expenses of the defense and security sector within the budget of the years 2000-2011 (in millions of dinars)
Balance of the defense and interior projects within the budget of years 2000-2011 (thousands of dinars)
Bahrain obtained financing for the development of its army from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1982 valued at $ 1.7 billion, as well as getting military support from the United States.
The United States was the only resource of weapon for Bahrain in the period between 1993 and 2004, Bahrain imported weapons from Washington Bahrain that worth $ 1.1 billion, including the F-16 aircraft and a frigate of the Oliver Perry model.
Bahraini military spending has become the focus of the House of Representatives (2006-2010), since many of its members believe that “the Bahraini defense spending must be less, because Bahrain has good relations with its neighbors in the region”, but the role of the Parliament is almost non-existent in the auditing of the military, in general, its role is limited in the other cases.
In May 2012 the U.S. State Department stated that the United States would resume selling some weapons sales to Bahrain, despite concerns over human rights after protests that lasted for more than a year against the rulers of the kingdom. The State Department said in a statement that the administration of President Barack Obama notified the Congress that it will allow the sale of some weapons to the Bahrain Defence Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.
The total value of sales that will be released was not disclosed, but it was confirmed that it “is not going to be used in crowd control.” Among the sales, which will be delivered: ships to protect ports and upgrades for turbine engines used in the F-16, as well as legislation that would pave the way for future sales of a naval frigate. The sales that are still pending contain Tao missiles and Humvees, as well as tear gas and their launchers, and stun grenades.
The decision to resume arms sales was met with criticism from Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, who prepared an item passed by the Congress last year which requires the consultation the administration with the representatives before allowing the sale of tear gas and other equipment that are related to control the crowds to the governments of the countries which are undergoing democratic transformation in the Middle East.
Leahy said in a statement, “Although I am happy that the administration continues to ban the Bahraini Security from tear gas and other equipment related to crowd control, the sale of these weapons sends a wrong message.” He added that “the government of Bahrain did not respect the legitimate demands of the Bahraini people and failed to hold the police and military officers accountable for the arrest, torture and killing of Bahraini protesters.”
The Obama administration postponed the arms sales to Bahrain which was worth $ 53 million in October 2011, waiting for the results of an investigation in the human rights violations since February 2011. The original deal was proposed, comprising 44 armored Humvees and several hundred Tao missiles and related materiel.
On 19 March 2012 Al-Tawazun Holding – the strategic investment company that focuses on defensive and specialist manufacturing – signed a deal with the presidency of the National Guard in the Kingdom of Bahrain for the supply of light weapons from the products of Cracal to the Bahraini National Guard troops.
It could be said that the increased military spending on the purchase of arms and military equipment from the United States and other Western countries would not modernize and develop the defensive capabilities of the kingdom, but to also weave strong economic and military relationship based on the principle of mutual benefits between the Kingdom and a number of key Western countries, leading to secure political and security support for the Kingdom, whether internally or externally.
25 Al-Wasat Bahraini Newspaper, Number 2880, Monday 26 July 2010.
The study confirms that the military and security institutions in Bahrain did not contribute to the building of a unified national identity, and building it on a historical legacy that dates back to the pre-modern state was the biggest obstacle to this role which is played by the armies and defensive forces in modern states, which made the military doctrine of the armed forces based on absolute loyalty to the ruling family and to be considered as the national state. Unlike the armies in the majority of modern states, where they are considered as autonomous institutions and represent one of the centers of power in the country, the military and security situation in Bahrain is managed directly by the royal family and the loyalty to the ruling family is considered as the armies first duties, as well as the prevalence of the members of the royal family in the upper and middle ranks of leadership in the armed forces, military and security units to achieve direct control over the movements of individuals and military groups in addition to ensuring their absolute loyalty.
The lack of positive historical experience with the citizens by the armed forces have contributed a lot in the isolation of that institution, and the possibility of monopolization of the decision makers in them by several sources overlapping with each other with a family connection, this situation despite adding the feel of cohesion and rigidity on the units of the military, except that the inflation and the diversity of those sources would cast its shadow on the current cohesion which may lead to its shredding and creating clear divisions within the military and security units, as well as considering each unit as a military wing of the political faction within the family.
It seemed so obvious in the current competition between the Bahrain Defence Force, National Guard, Royal Guard and the special forces in the Ministry of Interior, and the way to deal with the events of February 14, 2011, in accordance to the of the independent commission of inquiry report, on the other hand not being totally ready to face an internal crises and the use of additional troops from the Peninsula shield or Saudi forces to secure the vital interests.
It was natural for the senior leadership to resort to following strategies broader than military spending, which has taken a constant amount of an estimated of 1/5 annual state budget (23-25%) to ensure the survival of the doctrine of the armed forces and remaining steady and solid despite the witnessed changes in the levels of interaction with citizens, The study focused on tracking two strategies that represent the heart of the process of interaction between the military and the national identity, namely:
First Strategy: Building military units to the foreign and loyal elements, and the exclusion of a number of groups that aren’t allies or are against the system. Here, the Baloch and Arab tribal elements that come from Syria, Jordan and Yemen as Sunni elements come out against excluded elements which are the Shiites and Iranian descendents , Ajam and Huwala.
Second Strategy: strengthening the clientele pattern within the military to serve the strategic objective of the military institution which is absolute loyalty to the ruler and the ruling family, this pattern has taken many forms provided by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior to their affiliates which was strengthened with huge housing, consumer and social projects such as Wadi Al-Sail housing project, medical projects, such as the military hospital and King Hamad Hospital, as well as mass marriages projects for the military and exceptions in pension, retirement and other features and characteristics in return to the commitment of individuals to the decision of the senior leadership in the committees of individuals, whether in the National Guard or the Bahrain Defence Force.
This actually refers to the importance and the need to reform the military and rebuilding it on modern foundations, as well as getting rid of the old historical legacy and the rigid military doctrine based on personal loyalty, while replacing it with a comprehensive national loyalty that accommodates all community groups.