- House and Senate negotiators reach two-year budget deal
- Congress seeks ban on in-flight calls
- Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy site sold to owners of Townhall, HotAir: report
- GM’s Barra to be first woman to run top American carmaker
- China: Poisonous smog is a military asset, if you think about it
- Texas woman admits to sending ricin to Obama
- Ron Paul on son Rand: ‘I think he probably will’ run for president
- Cold War heats up again in the Arctic: Russian airfield reactivated after 20 years
- 6-year-old boy suspended for sexual harassment over kiss
- Voters deciding Mass. congressional contest
Opposition leader confirms contact with Bahraini government
The leader of Bahrain’s largest opposition party Wednesday confirmed that senior officials had engaged in informal contacts with the government, following a Washington Times report about a secret meeting.
The Washington Times first reported Tuesday that senior Wefaq officials had met royal court minister Khaled bin Ahmed earlier this month to discuss resuming long-stalled talks aimed at resolving the country’s year-old sectarian crisis.
Bahrain, the tiny Persian Gulf island kingdom that hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, has been in a political stalemate since last February, when Wefaq lawmakers resigned to protest a crackdown on anti-government protesters.
The bloc, which represents the kingdom’s Shiite majority, has struggled over the past year to meld its desire for reconciliation with the Sunni royal family with its need to keep faith with its increasingly hard-line Shiite base.
“Al Wefaq is sensitive to perceptions that it will abandon those most affected by the crackdown, and any kind of move toward reconciliation that doesn’t address lots of key issues would cost it its legitmacy as the country’s most important opposition force,” said Rutgers University professor Toby Jones, a former Bahrain-based consultant for the International Crisis Group. “It looks to people like they will sell out.”
Wefaq previosuly had placed tough preconditions on rejoining talks, demanding the prime minister’s resignation as well as a government commitment to wide-ranging political reforms.
But in phone interviews with The Times, bloc leaders softened that position, saying Wefaq would talk to the government if it agreed to place its demands on the agenda.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has pledged reforms but faces resistance from his Sunni supporters, who fear that greater enfranchisement of Shiite parties might jeopardize Bahrain’s relative secularism.
“The dilemma for Al Wefaq is that it can’t be viewed as undermining the youth movement that will continue to protest if their demands aren’t met.”
In a written statement Wednesday, a senior official with Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority said the government “remains committed to achieving reconciliation and has worked constantly to engage in dialogue with all constituencies in the Kingdom.”
“In a speech on Sunday, His Majestythe King emphasized the spirit of cohesion and reconciliation in Bahrain,” Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa wrote. “It is our sincere hope that all parties come together in an official dialogue for the betterment of Bahrain.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
By Donald Lambro
Growth spikes are little more than trend-free anomalies
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Harry Reid's visa pressure cooker
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
- Somber duty: U.S. presidents in hot demand at Mandela's memorial
- CARSON: Why did the founders give us the Second Amendment?
- Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu backs out of Nelson Mandela funeral
- Galaxy S4 owner claims Samsung tried to silence him after phone caught fire
- Obama shakes hands with Cuba's Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's funeral
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
A column dedicated to discussing politics, national security, civil liberties, and education.
Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
The “Silver Tsunami” created by aging Baby Boomers is hitting America. Let’s explore how we adjust to it, enjoy it and defy negative expectations about age.
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow