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Bahrain, also known as the Kingdom of Bahrain, is a constitutional monarchy located in the Persian Gulf. An archipelago, it consists of thirty three islands, the largest being Bahrain Island where the majority of the nation is located. Since 1987, Bahrain Island has been connected to Saudi Arabia, which lies to the west, by the thirty mile long King Fahd Causeway. In 1990, Bahrain became a member of the Gulf States Union and has been represented through this union in the LON.
Modern Bahrain can trace its history to the 7th Century when it became part of the growing Islamic world. Over the next centuries it was constantly fought over and occupied by various nations, clans, tribes, and Islamic sects. In 1783 the Al Khalifa clan of the Bani Utbah Arabic tribe, led by Ahmed Bin Muhammad Bin Khalifa, launched an attack from their base in nearby Qatar. Fourteen years later, the clan officially relocated to the island. In the early 19th Century, Bahrain signed the first of what would be many treaties with the British. By agreeing to become a protectorate, Britain supported the Al Khalifa claim to the throne and defended Bahrain from outside attackers. With the peace brought by this protection, the nation prospered and grew, becoming a major center of commerce in the region. In 1932, oil was first discovered and within several years was being exported. In 1968, Britain announced it would end its relationship with Bahrain and other Gulf nations as of 1971. When an attempt to form a union with the area which later became known as the UAE failed, the nation declared independence in 1971.
Bahrain established a new constitution and elected its first National Assembly in 1973. However, events would take a dark turn when the assembly refused to approve a state security law which among other things allowed for the arrest and jailing of people up to three years without a trial. In response, King Isa ibn Salman Al-Khalifa dissolved the Assembly, enacted the law by decree, and then suspended the parts of the constitution dealing with the Assembly’s legal powers. The years leading up to Doomsday, would bring fresh problems for the nation. The Iranian Shi'ite Islamic theocracy which rose to power in 1979 under Ayatollah Khomeini attempted to export their revolution to Bahrain in 1981, by providing support to the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain. The group planned to stage a coup, assassinating the king and other key leaders and establish a new government led by an Islamic cleric. The plan was thwarted at the last moment. This, along with the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, led Bahrain to join the Gulf Cooperation Council, a political and economic union with its neighbors, in 1981.
Bahrain was not directly targeted on Doomsday. When word reached the nation of the unfolding events shortly before dawn on September 26, 1983, King Isa ibn Salman Al-Khalifa declared a state of emergency, put the military on alert, and instituted a dusk to dawn curfew. Through regional radio and television broadcasts, it quickly became apparent a terrible tragedy had unfolded across the world.
Bahrain is currently governed as a constitutional hereditary monarchy currently divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
Under the executive, the king acts as the chief of state and the prime minister is the head of the government. The throne has been continuously held by the Al Khalifa dynasty since 1783 and is currently held by Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah who deposed his father in 1990 due to internal problems. The king appoints a council of ministers (cabinet) which is headed by the prime minister and help run the key appears of government.
The legislative branch, known as the National Assembly of Bahrain, is bicameral. The upper house, the Shura Council, consists of forty members appointed by the king. The lower house, Council of Representatives, has forty-four members of which thirty are appointed by popular election and the remaining fourteen appointed by the king. All members of the Assembly serve four year terms. The Assembly does not have the power to prevent the government of enacting law and acts more as a forum in which petitions are heard and legislative and political concerns are debated.
The judiciary branch is independent with the right to review. Bahrain has two different court systems, sharia and civil. Both courts handle matters at the local level, Sharia, marriage, divorce, and inheritance matters and civil courts, civil and criminal matters. All decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals, which is the ultimate court of law in the country and also has the power to rule on the constitutionality of laws and regulations. The highest legal authority is the Minister of Justice and Islamic affairs, who is appointed by and answerable to the Prime Minister. The country is divided into twelve municipalities. Although no political parties exist, all citizens over the age of eighteen may vote.
First discovered in 1932, oil had already emerged as the main driving force behind the Bahraini economy by the time of independence in 1971, accounting for 60% of government revenues. Within three years, this had risen to 80%, having helped to support and sustain the government’s modernization programs. By 1983, the growing slump in the oil market caused by the worldwide oil glut as well as their declining fields was beginning to have an effect. As far back as the mid-1960s, it had been predicted Bahrain had already used 1/3 of their oil reserves and government began to institute an economic plan to begin diversification of their economy. This included support for manufacturing plants which accounted for at least 13% of their economy. Primary among these endeavors was the development of aluminum manufacturing plants and a major ship repair yard in Al Hadd which could repair up to seventy ships in a year. As of Doomsday, the US, Britain, and Japan accounted for 40% of all imports.
To be continued ...
At the time of Doomsday, the Bahrain Defense Force was the smallest military force of any of the Gulf nations. It numbered approximately 11,000 active duty personnel in the army, navy, and air force just over 9800 paramilitary forces. The military existed as a single branch and it would not be until 1987, that is would separate into three branches. The main duty of the BDF was limited to defense action, including protection of the royal family, internal security, and patrolling the nearby oil lanes. At the time of Doomsday, Bahrain was in the process of upgrading its equipment, but as a result of the war this came to a halt. Since then it has received some older Soviet equipment following the occupation of civil war torn Iraq and plans to begin supplementing and or replacing older equipment once newer equipment is produced by the various GSU armament factories.
The army consists of about 5000 soldiers armed with mostly British tanks, APCs and armored cars, such as Saxons, and some artillery. The air force is made up of over a dozen helicopters, principally the Agusta-Bell AB212, based at the Rifa Air Base and contains no fixed wing aircraft. The navy, which numbers about 300 personnel, is headquartered at the Mina Sulman Naval Base. It includes four patrol boats, Al Riffa, Hawar, Al Jarim, and Al Jasrah, and several landing craft.
In 1990, Bahrain joined the Gulf States Union along with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE. Since 2008, it has been represented in the LON through a delegate appointed to represent the GSU as a single entity.