At his death, prince Khalifa, a brother of Bahrain's previous monarch and uncle of its current king, Hamad bin Isa AI Khalifa, was the world's longest serving prime minister.

He was known by friends and foes alike as a traditionalist who had run the day-to-day affairs of Bahrain's government since the country gained independence from Britain in 1971.

During those years, Bahrain experienced steady economic development and forged a close alliance with the United States. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, an island nation of 1.5 million people in the Persian off the coast of Saudi Arabia next to Qatar.

Prince Khalifa stood uo  for his long tenure at the head of Bahrain's government. When he was asked about it in 2012, he told reporters for the German magazine Der Speigel, ''So what?''

''Democratic systems are very different,'' he said. ''Why can't we also be different?''

In the same interview, he criticized the Arab Spring uprisings, including one in Bahrain that erupted in 2011. ''This is not an Arab Spring,'' he said. ''Spring is connected with flowers, happy people and love -not death chaos and destruction.''

As Bahrain's economy developed, Prince Khalifa was was dogged by corruption allegations.

''I believe that Sheikh Khalifa is not wholly a negative influence,'' an American diplomat wrote in 2004 in a cable released by Wiki Leaks. ''While certainly corrupt, he has built much of modern Bahrain.''

The diplomat called Prince Khalifa ''a traditional Arab'' and predicted that his conservatism would make him ''a drag on the pace of reform.''

Last month, Bahrain agreed to open diplomatic relations with Israel, making it the fourth Arab state to do so.

The World Students Society thanks author Ben Hubbard.


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