The Shah always said that Iran had a legitimate claim to Bahrain. The majority of Bahrainis are Shi’ite, those in power are Suni. The US Naval Forces Central Command is based in Bahrain as is the 5th Fleet. This is a toxic combination for a small Gulf sheikdom to endure. This week, encouraged by events in Egypt, the frustrations of ordinary Bahrainis spilled over into peaceful protest. Peaceful that is until the the police opened fire and fatally wounded one of the protesters. A containable protest became something much more serious. Yesterday, saw a callous and brutal overreaction by the police and the army which resulted in at least five deaths.
Bahrainis do not suffer the same level of deprivation and poverty as Egyptians, but the inequitable distribution of wealth and the discrimination practiced by the ruling Al Khalifa family are festering sores that have been neglected for too long – and they’re Sunis.
We should keep a weather eye on what happens in Bahrain. With its paranoia over Iran and a potential threat to its presence in the Gulf, Uncle Sam is unlikely to be happy with any change to the status quo. This is one ‘revolution’ the US will be very nervous about. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will probably escape the view of his sheikdom from a lamp post, Uncle Sam is sure to look after him. Oh for Wikileaks!