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Friday, February 18, 2011

Bahrain's revolution more problematic

The protests in Bahrain are not the same as in Egypt or Tunisia. Rather than protesting rising prices or freedom, it appears that the Bahrain protests are mostly by the Shiite majority against the ruling Sunnis.

But it is not as if Bahrain is a wasteland of human rights. It actually has one of the best human rights records of any Arab country and it has a diverse population. Bahrain even publicly called for the Jews who fled the country to come back.(It is not thrilled with gays, though.)

In fact, the major Shiite party wants to have more discrimination! From Wikipedia:
Al Wefaq, Bahrain’s main Shia Islamist opposition party, has for several years tried to introduce racial segregation, calling for the removal of third world immigrants from predominately Bahraini areas. In 2004, the head of Manama City Council, Al Wefaq’s Murthader Bader, called for the introduction of racial segregation in the city with the removal of South Asian nationals to other parts of the country.
So far, this has not morphed into an anti-US protest, but Bahrain is the headquarters of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, and concern is rising there. The Fifth Fleet helps keep the Gulf safe from disruptions of oil shipments that have been threatened by Al Qaeda - and Iran.

Iran is of course supporting the Shiites and denouncing the ruling government. Iran considers Bahrain to be a part of Iran proper and an Iranian takeover of the country to "redeem" it is not out of the question.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is very nervous and there are reports that it has sent its own tanks in to help Bahrain fight the protesters. Saudi Arabia has many Shiites that live in areas of the country where oil is pumped, and a revolution that spreads to the kingdom could be disastrous to the world energy supply.

The knee-jerk reaction to support every seemingly popular revolution can have far-reaching consequences.