‘Trump meeting, Al Khalifah’s intensified clampdown on dissent no coincidence’

A senior researcher has described as planned the latest wave of Manama’s crackdown on political dissent in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Bahraini monarch King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah.

“The human rights situation was already bad, but the timing of the latest crackdown is striking and it’s unlikely to be coincidental,” Jane Kinninmont with the London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House, said on Thursday.

Trump had a string of meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders, including the Bahraini ruler, during a summit in the Saudi capital city of Riyadh last month.

Less than 48 hours after the US president left Saudi Arabia, Bahraini regime troops attacked supporters of prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim, in the northwestern village of Diraz, killing at least five people and arresting 286 others. Reports said 19 policemen were also injured in the clashes.

“That does suggest that the calculations are being made. I think the main thing that is definitely different is … the amount of force that was just used. It does seem like a change,” Kinninmont said.

Rights groups and political analysts both warn that the worst is yet to come in Bahrain.

The London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy said Trump “effectively gave Hamad a blank check to continue the repression of his people.”

“Trump has effectively embraced longstanding US [Persian] Gulf allies and, in a break from previous administrations, said that he would not lecture them on human rights issues, signaling a hands-off US policy,” Adam Baron, visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations said.

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