Bahrain is an archipelago where the Islamic Republic of Iran lies at the end of one shore and the Arab States (Iraq, Kuwait, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman on the other). Living on these islands are Muslim Arabs some are Shia (who believe in the 12 Imams), which are the majority, and the remaining are followers of the Sunni sect. After its independence, Bahrain became a state which later turned into a Kingdom governed by a king that inherited it and who happens to be a Sunni Muslim, which makes him fear the majority and therefore opts for policies that would prevent the majority of the participation in the political decision or exercising their political and civil rights. This has created a gap between him and the popular majority which led them to what was called the Arab People’s Movement that started at beginning of the second decade of the twenty first century to rebel against the ruler. This raised questions about Bahrain and its national security.
National security in Bahrain faced challenges lately due to the political situation in the country since 2011 and confrontations between the people and the ruler, who hired foreign powers to suppress his people that took to the streets in a peaceful revolution, calling for reforms in the existing political system of constitutional monarchy in theory but exercises absolute monarchy with an unrestricted constitution, law, or statutory rules that control the country’s administration and ruler.
Instead of responding to people, entering a political dialogue, and pinpointing the issue to enable the country to regain its normalcy which would be to the advantage of the state, people and its authority and would enable all to strive to develop the country, the King opted for foreign military aid to shelter himself first and then he opted for internal policy based on direct repression and semi absolute marginalization of the people and further discriminated between people based on their sect in which he deprived the Shiite majority from their citizens’ rights as he mentioned. He also punished any Sunnis that did not agree with his unjust and repressive policies and the actions that led to the downward spiral of the economy. The repressive behavior reached new levels once he started withdrawing the citizenship from the native citizens and granting it to non-Arabs that merely agree with his policies simply to change the demographics of the country and grant the people’s rights to foreigners.
In the light of all this, the national security became at grave risk, while facing internal and external challenges that threaten the existence of the state as well as its presence and future, which raises major questions about Bahrain’s ability to meet these challenges.
These are questions we attempt to answer in this research paper in which we define national security in general and illustrate Bahrain’s national security challenges from all dimensions, and conclude by depicting practical actions to face these challenges according to the existing and available resources.
First: Identifying National Security
- Defining National Security in General
Researchers did not agree on one single definition of national security by specific terms or conclusive definitions but directions spread wide in specifying it. Mostly, the modern perception of National Security goes beyond the narrow military concept to include the economy and to become more comprehensive to include owning the powers to protect the existence of the people on their own land without any violations, protecting people’s interests outside of the country, protecting the people’s civil humanitarian rights (material and moral) as a group or as one as well as the requirements of a decent living including economic, financial, ability to make a living and enabling the people to formulate a political system that meets their ambitions and satisfies the above mentioned needs, and finally enabling the state to the private possession of its strategic space that fits its geography and its political aspirations across the border. This means that everything related to the achievement of a comprehensive national security of the state imposes that the state uses all its powers to achieve the desired goal.
Therefore, national security would have many aspects beyond that of a military character, but before we define these aspects it must be noted the differentiation shown by some intellectuals and researchers between the “National Security” and “Arab National Security” while others tend to integrate them.
To clarify, we say that if the nation was divided by regions and independent states, then it may be more accurate to adopt the label “National Security” of each of the countries that hosted part of this nation. “Arab National security” refers to the security of all states belonging to one nation, and if these countries are connected to each other geographically a third concept comes into existence: “Regional Security”, which may combine with the “Arab National Security” if the countries of the region all belong to one nation or go beyond “Arab National Security” if the countries of the region were divided between various nationalities or if the province was related to the specificity of a region larger than a state.
For example, we refer to “Syrian National Security” or “Lebanese” or “Bahrain” when the security is related to a specific country in the Arab world, and “Arab National Security” when it includes all Arab countries. “Gulf Security” refers to the security of Arab states in the Gulf while “Middle East Regional Security” refers to the security of all countries in the Middle East including Arab and non-Arab countries that find themselves vulnerable to threats from one single source or of one type. Israel is not part of the “Middle East Regional Security “, but the opposite is true because it is viewed as a threat to the people of the region and its countries. Therefore, Israel is a threat to “Arab Security” and “Regional Security”, and even “National Security” for some countries.
Despite the relevance of these arguments, some believe that “National Security” is related to a homeland and a physical area on which a country is present, while the “Arab National Security” is related to the people and a nation under one state or more to include members whether they are inside or outside of the physical boundary of a state and belonging to any nation. Therefore, the concept of “Arab National Security” is adapted to a state where the majority of its people constitute a broader part of a nation.
And so as not to be entangled in the different definitions involving security, we stick with the differentiation between the “National security” and “Arab Security” as explained above, and we implement an adoption of the concept of “Bahrain National Security” in this study that relate to people in Bahrain, which is a part of the bigger nation.
- Bahrain National Security and its divisions
As noted above, “National Security”, in its new definition, is no longer limited to what comes to mind traditionally regarding the military concept aimed at preserving the political entity away from any violation, but it exceeded this concept and came to be divided into several titles including:
A-Geographical security within a land with borders
This is the core for national security and aims to save the land that is taken, by the state and the people, as a country within recognized borders. It is the type of security that requires defense by the state to face any external aggression and to achieve this, it requires possession of a military force to prevent attacks on its land and prevent the violation of territorial sovereignty on land, sea, and air. This criterion forms the basis of National Security and is inseparable from it with the initiation of the nation-state. To defend the physical land means to defend the nation, which got up to form a single state. Here the concepts of “National Security” overlapped with the concept of “Arab National Security” as long as the country is taken by the nation for the establishment of their state on it.
B-Internal national security
It aims to secure a safe internal environment that enables residents to live, work, and exercise their rights in the country in tranquility away from the fear of an overriding person or a violation of an aggressor. This refers to security in its traditional narrow definition which does not exceed the material and physical security of residents within the state and the appropriate environment to practice living while maintaining the regularity of intra-relations between people and classes, in order to achieve public order for society and inner peace where there is no violation towards the person’s presence, wealth, or his/her rights as citizens.
C. Social security
It refers to the regulated community brought up by the country to maintain a cohesive and effective society with explicit identity, morals, intellectual and ideological values, where the community is able to work and produce an output to secure individual and group needs to live decently, enabling them to respect the law and achieve general uniformity. The objective of social security lies in securing individuals and giving them opportunities to live decently and work as effective members in the community which seeks evolution. Therefore, social security exceeds physical security relating to security of people’s lives and safety, but widens to include the safety of social relationships that lead to community cohesion and development, and to confirm the community with all its members and prevent the over-crowding of outsiders to the original citizens in national rights and humanity.
Examples of violations of the Social Security include forcible transfer of groups and crimes leading to disruption of the demographic makeup of the community through bringing foreigners in groups to spoil the harmonious social fabric and cohesion of the community. Other examples include depriving the community of basic life provided by the infrastructure of the state, brainwashing crimes, and heritage ablation where all of this is considered a breach of social security, and we do not neglect to say that the most dangerous element that spoils social security is the collapse and disintegration of morality and fueling the internal strife and dissension.
D. Political security
This refers to the regime, its approach, and the mutual relations between the ruler and his people in order to preserve everyone’s rights and ensure exercising people’s duties. Political security requires the provision of appropriate and adequate circumstances to the political authorities to work and protect the country against the risk of movements aiming to overthrow, paralyze, or replace the current regime outside the permitted law and international political norms. On the other hand, political security enables citizens to exercise their political rights as individuals or in groups through the formation of political parties, communities, associations and so forth. Here we have to differentiate between the legitimate acts taken up by the authority to protect the system, according to the law, and between the repressive actions, under the pretext of protection of the system, that deprives its citizens to exercise their political rights. This is a breach of the political security. As a conclusion, political security is a parallel, balanced two-way instrument working for the benefit of the authority, its institutions, people, and bodies.
Economic security stems from the idea of preserving the national wealth and making use of it to benefit individuals, sectors, and groups. Economic security then expands to include a security that lays the foundations for sound and effective economic cycles to create steady internal and external development. We are aware that internal economic circles include access to the wealth, the means of production, and the ability to control them, then turn this over and run it to produce consumer goods and the necessary community services. The external economic cycle includes the ability to secure the needed goods from abroad and provide them in the minimum cost and in the appropriate time, and marketing surplus in domestic production in the international market in order to achieve trade balance. Neglecting national wealth, obstructing work, and paralyzing the internal or external economic cycles causes a breach in Economic Security which backfires on National Security in its general definition.
F-Vital strategic space of the state
The strategic space of a country is its field of cross-border in which it positively maneuvers relations with the outside world safely ensuring its security interests in the branches mentioned previously. This space constitutes a barrier to the intervention of third parties in a country’s internal affairs and gives the opportunity to build relationships with foreign countries in order to achieve those maximum interests possible. The vital strategic space narrows, deepens, or tapers proportionally to the ability of the country, its overall strength, faith and intellectual ideals. The country can overly expand the dynamic strategic space and deepen it to the extent of interfering in the affairs of others and imposing a dependency upon other countries. In this way, the national security of a country is maintained at the expense of other countries and this is beyond the national security in its positive strategic sense to reach dependency, affiliation, and domination. This violates the national security of the other country being dominated without physical occupation or foreign military presence on its territory, because the mere confiscation of sovereign national decision is a violation of national security.
Second: the Bahraini national security challenges
In light of limitations listed above and its application on the reality of Bahrain today, we find that the national security of Bahrain is suffering from difficulties and important gaps and faces various challenges in more than one aspect that can be reviewed in the main titles as follows:
- Security challenges on land and geographical boundaries
Bahrain suffers from two types of foreign military presence on its land which not required by the actual interest of the Kingdom of Bahrain and its people, but rather interferes with and poses a serious threat to these interests.
The first type of military presence is the proliferation of US military in Bahrain, the establishment of military bases on its territory, and the concentrated presence of the maritime military command of the Fifth Fleet. It is obvious that this presence affects the security and sovereignty of Bahrain and ruins relations between Bahrain and its environs from countries that the United States is openly hostile against and has threatened through military action between now and then. At the forefront of these countries is Iran, which was supposed to have positive good relations with Bahrain benefitting the interests of both countries, but the American presence have negatively impacted on this matter. And we can simply say that the American presence in Bahrain does not in any way benefit it militarily and is certainly a violation of national security of Bahrain.
The second type of military presence is the involvement of Gulf military forces into Bahrain’s internal affairs and the introduction of more than one thousand and five hundred soldiers, majority being officers from Saudi Arabia, where they are deployed to face citizens and prevent them from expressing their opinion. The military and security decision in Bahrain is therefore distributed between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain’s government does not have more than a formal authority in this matter. This makes the Kingdom of Bahrain, according to military definitions and the rules applicable in this regard, an occupied country without any sovereignty and this is what constitutes a flagrant challenge to national security in the physical geographical meaning.
- Social security challenge
Challenges in the field of social security in Bahrain lead other types of challenges because of their direct impact on Bahraini people’s existence first and then on the effectiveness of this existence to exercise rights relating to the individual as a human being and a citizen. International organizations concerned with human rights and commissions of inquiry that were dispatched to Bahrain to monitor what has been going, on have recorded a huge amount of human rights violations and warned of future impact on the country and its people.
In this respect rights, international human rights organizations have issued more than 176 recommendation addressed to the government of Bahrain to review their positions and respect for human rights in the country. Furthermore, the Bassiouni Commission of Inquiry, which confirmed the sufferings of the people and saw the necessity of reviewing the policies adopted by the King and his government. But despite that, he proceeded in violations of those rights to the extent that Human Rights Watch organization described human rights in Bahrain as “bleak” after it stood on cases of arbitrary arrest, arbitrary detention, torture, forced exile, and in addition to all the acts that spoil the tranquility and bliss of society.
Recently, Bahrain authorities have committed violations what would demolish the community. Such acts were rarely known in history and we recall, in particular:
A. Revoking citizenship from native citizens for political reasons, and only pursuant to sectarian The King of Bahrain insists to commit this act, which is considered by international law an object of genocide and a crime against humanity. The King insisted on such violation despite the fact that international law does not permit it at all since it differentiates between original and acquired citizenship. International law authorises revoking the acquired citizenship but prohibits revoking the original citizenship. The original citizenship is the one acquired at birth (the rule is that each newborn has at least one original nationality, and usually it is the father’s nationality). Some regimes grant the nationality of the mother to the newborn in addition to the nationality of the father if they were different. Other regimes grant the newborn the nationality of the country, on which he/she were born irrespective of the nationalities of the mother and father. The nationality acquired at birth by state law is considered an original nationality and may not be withdrawn or revoked, but in case it is, the decision is not legitimate or applied in international law.
The acquired nationality is one that is granted by a country to a foreigner carrying an original nationality of another country, and the grant is given according to the domestic law of the country granting the nationality. This citizenship is subject to being withdrawn or revoked according to the rules of domestic law, especially if the naturalized person breached the terms of acquisition of nationality or committed hostile acts against the donor country either solo or joining groups hostile to it.
And we view the violation committed by the King of Bahrain in revoking the citizenship of native Bahrainis on the basis that they are naturalized, have acquired the citizenship, and are not native citizens of the country as a crime of genocide perpetrated by the King, and he should be prosecuted. The damage, of course, is not explicit to those whose citizenship was revoked but goes beyond that to include all the Bahraini people in general and all those belonging to the Shiite sect in particular. This act is described as moral genocide which is equivalent in risks to material genocide which includes mass murder and the uprooting of the people from the land of their ancestors. Because behaving with such mentality is a form of the moral uprooting of people from their land, this provides the opportunity for complete ablation of the people physically because those whose citizenship was revoked do not have the right to reside in Bahrain (only through a residence permit and an entry visa). Revoking citizenship is thus the first step which paves the way for the second step which involves expelling the person from the country.
B. Naturalization of foreigners on a sectarian basis to change the country’s demographics so that the major sect becomes the opposite of what exists today.
Bahrain’s population is about one million people and there is no conclusive and documented number. In the census conducted by the country in 2011, it was announced that the number of people that day were 1,234,000. However, knowledgeable observers are skeptical when it comes to Bahrain and say the actual number is 950,000, including 650,000 Shiites, and 300.000 Sunnis with a ratio of 69% Shiites and 31% Sunnis. Those close to the King proclaim, based on the census, in which the Shiites are 620.000 and Sunnis are 614.000 with a ratio of 50.25% Shiites and 49.75% Sunnis. Of course this figure is not taken into consideration by knowledgeable observers.
Since the popular uprising, the King adopts a policy that will impact on the demographics of the people so that it leads to a reduction in the number of Shiites and prevent their growth, through the withdrawal of nationality, immigration, and increase the number of Sunnis so that they equate the number of Shiites in the first stage and then go further in the second phase to bring over foreigners and naturalize them. The King’s entourage announces fabricated numbers of the two sects and insists on an imaginary balance today as we have seen. But in fact, they announce the number that they are striving to achieve in the first stage of the process of demographic change implemented by the King, which is to be followed by a second step later.
The King of Bahrain believes that he needs to naturalize 350,000 loyal people and force them to embrace the doctrines of Islam and in particular the Wahhabi ideology or get them to believe in this religion if they were not followers of it already. He promotes for a census that would enlarge him as if naturalization had already took place.
The naturalization of foreigners in this collective form imposes immense risks and negative aspects affecting social security which is a branch of national security. Naturalization will lead to the following results:
1) Depriving the native people of their country’s wealth to give it to naturalized foreigners. Employment opportunities will thus be narrowed down for the native people of the country and an illegal competition will be created in their homeland between them and the naturalized strangers who were imposed on them for political reasons. This drives them to forced migration in search of money or turns them to retaliatory action and the use of force, and this is what corrupts the internal security of the country. The introduction of large numbers of foreigners into the country, making them partners in the wealth of the country, and allowing them to advance in wealth as compared to the native Bahraini people because of religious affiliation, is a violation of national security because of its negative consequences are obvious.
2) Preparing the environment for a civil war between the natives and newly naturalized expatriates. The formation of a foreign human mass that is being nurtured and cared for by the authority and which is now superior to the original population of the country could push the natives to exercise force and violence in order to defend their interests and their violated rights. The newly naturalized expats will find themselves holding firmly on the gains and bounties given to them and will seek to defend what they gained in various ways. Illegal naturalization is thus the shortest way to start a fire of sedition and civil war in the country, and the ruler is its cause.
3) Qatar enticements to naturalize Sunnis from Bahrain. At a time when Bahrain is seeking to increase the number of Sunnis on its land, Qatar has opened a channel that allowed Sunnis of the people of Bahrain to become naturalized in Qatar. This behavior is explained by some as vexatious and is a part of the strategic conflict between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which dominates Bahrain.
With this collective immigration and intentional naturalization, based on sectarian affiliation, together with other issues such as the marginalizing of Shiites, forced immigration, importing foreigners and naturalizing them even though they are not Arabs, we find that Bahrain is facing the most serious uprooting process of the original population in its history, the demolition of demographics, and the introduction of new blood into its society. This threatens national identity and nationalism, and introduces ramifications in the field of national security. This reminds us of two examples in modern history. The first was in South Africa, with the racism of a superior white government against blacks. The second case was in Israel, which uprooted the natives and brought foreigners from all over the world to replace them. Bahrain today is exposed to a similar risk of cross-marginalization of indigenous peoples and forcing natives to migrate in order to bring foreigners to replace them. This in itself is an occupation of land by others in a civil manner based on legal pretexts. Bahrain thus is now under two types of occupation: a military occupation by US and Saudi Arabia forces, and a civilian occupation caused by importing foreigners to overcrowd natives and force them to immigrate thereby replacing them in work and confiscating the wealth of the country to the benefit of foreigners.
- Political security challenge
Political imbalance and the King’s avoidance of a fair rule and good governance are the most important reasons that prompted the people of Bahrain for revolution. The popular movement could have catalysed reform by the King and gave him a chance to reconsider his policies on the existing discrimination and repression. However, he insisted on those policies and rushed in tightening them thereby escaping forward with intentional procrastination, which led to a more complex situation.
Moreover, we know that Bahrain suffers from depriving the popular majority to participate in the political decision of the country and marginalising them almost entirely. In addition, the governing system is based on a royal, hereditary rule where the people have no role in the selection of the King. As a result, the King surrounded himself by a selected category of citizens especially chosen because they belong to the Sunni sect and disregarded the remaining 90% (the majority Shiites and the other Sunnis). On the other hand, Shiites in particular suffer from exclusion in government departments especially in employment in the critical departments like the private security, armed forces, Foreign Affairs, and Finance in a practice that shows a lack of trust from the King towards these citizens.
In addition, Bahrain’s repressive practices have escalated against the existing parties to prevent similar ones from replacing them in popularity making this an example of a political security violation.
As a result of this situation caused by the King’s policy of discrimination, marginalisation, monopolisation, and repression, pervasive feelings of bitterness dominated in Bahrain. Some took extremism to reject this reality, but despite the fact that this extremism is still under control and did not turn into a violent security issue, the control on the situation cannot be guaranteed especially under the King’s current spiteful policy.
- Economic security challenge
External challenges in economic security in Bahrain are the least in importance between the other challenges because of Bahrain’s poverty in possessing natural resources that does not make it a target for others greed. This poverty in itself is a challenge to the country and its people that need to search for foundations in establishing an effective economic cycle that result in returns and resources needed for a decent life especially because Bahrain is amidst an oil-rich geographical- the Gulf Cooperation Council. Failure to establish this economic cycle thus forces the country to rely on conditional foreign aid, which jeopardize the decision and lead to it being dominated, or on a service economy associated with a lessening in principles, religious norms, and heritage, which the native Bahrainis are proud to have, as is happening now in Bahrain. The King of Bahrain took the easy way out and relied on the debatable services sector and accepted foreign aid which is not given unconditionally.
- Challenges from foreign domination and supremacy
Powerful countries usually seek vital strategic space for the development of their interests and security across the border. Strategic space of a country can expand as much as the power it has and the ideas it uses to conquer, dominate, occupy, and colonise other countries. Weak countries do not aim for a strategic space outside its borders, and the bulk of what these countries aim for is not to be controlled by others and not to be converted into a strategic space for the dominating countries. Bahrain is ranked among the weak countries present in an area where outside powers are seeking to acquire. Each aspires to put a hand out on Bahrain, and at the forefront of those countries, we find those that practice a kind of military occupation on the land of Bahrain like America and Saudi Arabia, as mentioned above. Iran is also accused of wanting to take over Bahrain. Qatar, on the other hand, wants to challenge other countries and send them messages via Bahrain. Iraq’s share in this regional conflict stems from its unique geo-political importance.
Thirdly: Facing the challenges of Bahrain national security
In-depth study of the challenges of national security in Bahrain lead semi-conclusive results in terms of identifying sources of risks that threaten the country. Two risks threaten Bahrain’s national security. One is internal and it lies in the existence of an autocratic authority quite separate from its people, and the other is external where regional and international powers seek a disguised control of the country and its domination. If things are not addressed seriously and the national interest of the original people of Bahrain is taken into account, the country is threatened to follow other Arab countries where their security collapsed, their authority dispersed, and now face a dark future.
Although the revolution taking place in Bahrain for more than three years is still peaceful, despite all types of repression practiced by the King, the risk of things sliding into civil war as a result of systematic demographic change, carried out by the King, poses serious risks.
On the other hand, we find that the union aiming to join Bahrain to Saudi Arabia, either as full annexation or just politically with limited self-rule, is an idea that may become effective once Saudi Arabia sees the regional and international circumstances to its benefit politically and militarily.
We cannot disregard the effects of the US military presence on the land of Bahrain and its ability to control the political decision and the security of the country. The United States of America believes this existence is of interest to it because it is related to the national security of the US due to the Gulf’s location in this security system. Therefore, it is not objectively important now to talk about the evacuation of Bahrain from the US military bases in the light of existing international clashes and in the light of a Cold War between the United States and NATO countries one hand, and their opponents particularly the axis of resistance in which Iran is a key pillar, and the BRICS members in which Russia and China are at its forefront, on the other hand.
Therefore, we believe that Bahrain needs to face these challenges that will lead to its destruction if it is too late. It is feared that natives of Bahrain might wake up one day to find themselves a minority in their homeland, marginalized and without any rights, or to find their country has become a part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or colonised by it, or their country might change from a sovereign state to just a military base for NATO countries particularly the US.
Since the King is a major player in the tragedy of Bahrain, a producer or a generator to crises, the national security of Bahrain becomes the responsibility of the people that are revolting for reform now. Because there is no national security without regional security, this means that the security of Bahrain will not be fully synchronized before restoring security in the region. Thus, Bahrain’s file will be among those put on the negotiating table later on to arrange the affairs of the region. Until that happens, we see that Bahrain should resort to some preventive measures that cannot be delayed, according to the following:
- A. Rejecting the demographic change strategy adopted by the King using three ways:
- To consider allnaturalizationdecisionsafter the outbreak ofthe revolution as void because they came as a result of a strategicpoliticalbackground issue toaffect theorigins andcompositionof the Bahraini peopleanddirectlyaffect thenational securityof the country. Therefore, all nationalitiesnaturalizedafter this date should be invoked. This must be officially declared andconsidered as partofthe opposition’s demands.
- Dropping all decisions regarding the revoking of the citizenship from native Bahrainis as invalidinoriginandforma kind of moral and political The offender of such crimes must be prosecutedin front ofinternational courtsandinternational organizationsconcerned withhuman rights.
- Bahrainis should retaintheir original nationalityin the event ofacquiringthe citizenship of anothercountry.
- B. Preventing changing the political reality of Bahrain and insisting on preserving the country as a sovereign independent state. The opposition should confirm its rejection of any effort enabling Saudi Arabia to unite with Bahrain under any form because Bahrain will lose its sovereignty, people will lose their chances, and the current demographic majority will dissipate to produce a new political reality opposing their interests.
- Continue peaceful pressure on the King to achieve serious negotiations leading to a peaceful solution for the crisis. The country cannot cope with the serious challenges to national security in which the King resulted in most of them. The first step in the resolution starts from the King’s mansion, but being careful not to allow the country to fall into the trenches of civil war, the King’s wishful thinking, which is contrary to the interests of Bahrain and its national security. The peaceful pressure on the King must be tightened to force him to engage in a process of reform and stop ruining the national security of the country.
- Awaiting changes in the surrounding countries and aligning with them and utilizing every opportunity against Saudi Arabia and its strategic axis which the King is now a part of.
- The quest to build a productive economic cycle that eases pressure of the service sector, gets rid of the dependency for donations from other countries, and clings more to the rules on which the Bahraini society have historically evolved.
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