A new report says Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are seeking to overthrow Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifah, the world’s longest-serving premier, in a bid to gain more influence in the Persian Gulf country.
While older leaders in the region support Khalifah, the younger ones, namely Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, are siding with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah and wish to sideline the prime minister, a diplomatic source told the Middle East Eye news portal.
The source also noted that both former Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the incumbent one, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, favored Khalifah.
“As Saudi king, Abdullah objected to the elimination of Khalifa. King Salman and the emir of Kuwait also consider him the right man in the right place,” the source said. “However, Mohammed bin Salman has no relationship with him and does not care much about him.”
“It is likely that bin Salman does not mind overthrowing the prime minister in order to satisfy bin Zayed, who seeks to rearrange the situation in Bahrain, crowning a new prince, and overthrowing the old figures,” he added.
The source further emphasized that bin Zayed was pushing for more influence in Bahrain and regarded King Hamad as a close friend and ally.
Meanwhile, London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported that the Bahraini king was seeking to remove the premier after the parliamentary elections later this year.
Adel Marzooq, a Bahraini journalist who lives in London, confirmed that a “violent and irresponsible” conflict in the halls of Bahraini power “is not a joke and it does not bode well. It is actually a serious development”.
“The current signs indicate that there is a predilection in favor of a historic change in the position of prime minister after parliamentary elections at the end of the year,” he said.
“However, the decision has not yet been announced, or rather has not been agreed upon, particularly since it needs prior consultation from Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” he pointed out.
The Bahraini journalist further stressed that bin Salman and bin Zayed “are less likely interested in keeping the [Bahraini] prime minister.”
Khalifah has served as Bahrain’s prime minister since the island declared independence from Britain in 1971 after Iran’s former Shah relinquished sovereignty over the tiny Persian Gulf isalnd.
Earlier this month, bin Salman and bin Zayed held the first-ever meeting of their Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council in Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are accused of plotting to monopolize power in the Persian Gulf region through aggressive policies against their neighbors.
The two countries are partners in a deadly war on Yemen and an all-out siege of Qatar. Oman recently complained that it was running out of patience with the UAE violations.
Oman warns the United Arab Emirates against continued “theft” of its intellectual property and national heritage.
Since February 2011, Bahraini people have been holding peaceful protest rallies on an almost daily basis, demanding that the Al Khalifah family relinquish power and let a just system representing all Bahrainis be established.
Bahrainis have also been complaining against widespread discrimination against the Shia majority in the kingdom.
Manama has responded to the protests with lethal force, drawing international criticism.
Bahraini authorities have further detained human rights campaigners, broken up major opposition political parties, revoked the nationality of several pro-democracy activists and deported those left stateless.