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Nasser bin Hamad and his relationship with the Israeli cyber security sector

Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa led a joint military drill between Bahrain and the UAE on November 10, 2022. This event allowed him to show his influence within the Bahraini security apparatus, especially in front of UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed, who was present in Bahrain for this occasion.

From secret talks with Israel to overseeing the military intervention against the Houthis in Yemen, the 35-year-old Nasser — King Hamad’s son by his second wife, Shaima bint Hassan al-Khraish al-Ajmi — has become a key figure within Bahrain’s security and intelligence services despite being sixth in line for succession.

His half-brother and Bahraini crown prince, Salman bin Hamad, currently dominates the country’s intelligence sector.

Nasser participated in the suppression of the Pearl Roundabout protests in February 2011, which were led by Bahrain’s Shiites, who make up the majority of the population, and used security as a means to secure his influence within the country’s monarchy.

In June 2011, only months after protests, his father appointed him commander of the Royal Guard, an elite unit in the Bahrain Defense Force that is largely composed of Pakistani and Jordanian soldiers, and this was the starting point for Sheikh Nasser – a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Britain – to continue his promotion in the ranks.

In 2019, King Hamad appointed him National Security Adviser and then, the following year, Secretary General of the Supreme Defense Council. Since then, Nasser built his plan to lead the Kingdom’s foreign policy on two axes: fighting the Houthis in Yemen and marginalizing Qatar in the region, in light of his knowledge of the presence of Iranian influence in Bahrain.

Nasser bypasses his half-brother, Salman bin Hamad, the crown prince, prime minister, and second pillar of the king’s authority, who greatly influences the deep state of Bahrain.

Salman oversees the Bahraini intelligence services and is well-connected to various sectors of the Ministry of Defense. However, he suffers in the royal court, the special relationship between his father and Nasser.

So he has to sit back and watch his brother Nasser’s popularity soar as diplomats, businessmen, army officers, and advisers flock to the few places where Nasser appears in public, like Bahrain’s famous rugby club.

Nasser benefited from aligning Bahrain’s interests with the Al Nahyan family in Abu Dhabi and established Bahrain’s rapprochement with Israel.

After hosting Mossad delegations in his offices at the royal court — long before the Abraham Accords of September 2020 — Nasser imported many Israeli electronic equipments that is the focus of the Kingdom’s strategy.

This equipment included the Israeli spy program from the Israeli NSO Group, which constituted a qualitative leap in the security rapprochement between Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, despite its use to spy on many Bahrainis.

As a result, Nasser obtained important information from the UAE, which between 2020 and 2021, spied on several ministers of the government of former Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and several Qatari princes.

With his policy of realism and economic liberal approach, Nasser became the point of contact in Bahrain with Mohammed bin Zayed and Emirati National Security Adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed and worked to reformulate regional security policy with Israel, the UAE, and the United States.

In 2009, Nasser married Sheikha bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, one of the daughters of the Emir of Dubai, which helped him build personal relationships in the Emirates.

Nasser stands by Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen and is in direct contact with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite his disagreement with the latter over lifting the blockade imposed on Qatar.

Recently, Nasser has begun to acquire the country’s economic assets. Having entrusted Fahd Al Khalifa—a former advisor to the late Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa—with his official agenda in April 2021, Nasser became chairman of the Oil and Gas Holding Company attached to the Ministry of Oil and the government’s energy diversification arm.

Nasser has made several reforms at the Oil and Gas Holding Company to keep pace with the transitional phase of the energy sector in Bahrain, where he now oversees the country’s oil and gas assets, such as the Bahrain Petroleum Company Bapco, mainly due to the modest oil reserves in the country and the production quota for 2022 of 196 thousand barrels per day.

In addition to the Kingdom’s economic strategy, like other Gulf princes, Nasser owns his own investment fund, Infinity Capital, to advance his personal interests abroad.

Abdullah Al-Zein, also known as Abdullah Jihad Al-Zein, has been running the company since its inception in 2010 and was appointed by Nasser as president of the “Bahrain Petroleum Company” in October 2021.

Despite the unfortunate incident he suffered in Paris in 2017 when $200,000 in cash was stolen from him on his way to the city centre after landing at Charles de Gaulle airport, Al-Zain continued to invest in Europe on Saleh’s behalf, focusing on the sports sector.

Nasser is also known for his sports passion, which he developed after suffering from an overweight complex during his teenage years. He started many investments in the sports sector in 2010, and in 2013 he hired Slovenian advisor Milan Erzen to establish his equestrian teams and then the Bahrain motorcycle riding team in 2016. In 2019, Abdullah Al-Zein acquired the Spanish club Cordoba, and in 2020 a 20% stake in the French football club Paris FC.

 

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