The Bahrain Regime has Sealed its Fate
As some of you might have heard:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP); 15 Feb 2011— Thousands of protesters took over a main square in Bahrain’s capital Tuesday — carting in tents and raising banners — in a bold attempt to copy Egypt’s uprising and force high-level changes in one of Washington’s key allies in the Gulf. The move by demonstrators capped two days of clashes across the tiny island kingdom that left at least two people dead, parliament in limbo by an opposition boycott and the king making a rare address on national television to offer condolences for the bloodshed.
Security forces — apparently under orders to hold back — watched from the sidelines as protesters chanted slogans mocking the nation’s ruling sheiks and called for sweeping political reforms and an end to monarchy’s grip on key decisions and government posts. The unrest in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, adds another layer to Washington’s worries in the region.
For a while, I watched the news unsure about their final outcome. However, events in the last 24 hours have convinced me that the current bahrain regime has sealed its fate. You might remember a similar early prediction made by me about events in Egypt which turned out to be correct.
So what makes me think that events there have taken a different path? Here is the list..
1.The previous lethal crackdown on protesters only made more people show up for the next round of protests.
2. Did I mention that the not-so-well-off plebs are Shia and the royal family is Sunni?
A good analogy for the Shia-Sunni divide are the numerous Catholic-Protestant wars and conflicts in pre-modern europe.
3. The current regime in its infinite stupidity has allowed the army (mostly sunni) to fire on the funeral processions of the protesters (mostly shia). Because we live in the 21st century, they cannot kill thousands of people and get away with it- it looks really bad on TV and the internet (plus everybody on the ground has a camera-containing cellphone).
However every protester killed will result in an even bigger funeral procession in the next few days. Do you see the problem? The Bahrain army has more than a few mercenary Pakistani Sunni soldiers. Did I also mention that said Pakistani soldiers are treated poorly because they are non-arabs muslim?
4. The current regime lacks an understanding of PR in our connected digital age.
Update at 10:41 a.m. ET: CNN quotes witnesses as saying four people have been killed after soldiers fired on demonstrators today in Bahrain. Update at 10:19 a.m. ET: CNN reports that one doctor was killed and paramedics injured trying to help protesters injured by gunshots in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. CNN quotes witnesses as saying soldiers opened fire on demonstrators.
5. If the current regime looks shaky, the US will abandon it.
Bahrain is home port to the US 5th fleet. Given the choice between severely antagonizing local people and withdrawing support from the current regime to start talks with the next one, what would you do?
Bahrain is currently a fairly liberal arab society, and a semi-democratic government would be a minor change from the status quo for the US. But they should rightly fear being seen on the wrong side of history.. Cuba and Guantanamo bay anyone?