Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Missing in Bahrain: Leadership

by Elliott Abrams
May 11, 2012


The situation in Bahrain continues to boil. Every week brings new reports of protests and police abuses, and the gap between the Sunni royal family and the mostly Shia population is by all accounts widening. There are also reports of growing radicalization within both the Sunni and Shia camps: more Shia demanding not reform and constitutional monarchy but an end to the rule of the al-Khalifa family, more Sunnis fearing that democracy will lead to Iranian influence and eventually domination. Every Bahraini with whom I have spoken this year acknowledges these growing divisions in their society. It is logical to fear that the center will not hold.

The November 2011 report of the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry (or BICI) was seen, at the time, as a turning point. King Hamad accepted the report though BICI was quite critical of the government and found many human rights violations. This was the moment when moderates could take back leadership and end the period of drift, violence, and alienation. That did not happen. Beyond arguing over what portion of the BICI recommendations the government has actually implemented or will implement, there is a deeper problem. The BICI report was about human rights issues, not about the structural political questions that Bahraini society must address. Those issues were beyond the BICI’s jurisdiction, so it rightly did not reach them. Still, the day the BICI report was accepted personally by the king looked like an excellent chance to get the ball rolling on serious and moderate political reform that could bring stability back to the country.

But in recent months and indeed in the last few days things have gotten worse. Talks between the government and the opposition were ended and a crackdown of some sort seems imminent. The top spokesman for the government, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, said “Because of the escalation in violence, we are looking into the perpetrators and people who use print, broadcast and social media to encourage illegal protest and violence around the country. If applying the law means tougher action, then so be it.”

What went wrong? There is so much blame to go around that everyone gets apportioned some: police and soldiers, high-ranking security officials, the king, the royal family, Shia extremists, violent youth…the list is long. Bahraini officials bridle at Western accounts casting them as evil and all Shia activists as heroes, and this is no doubt understandable: there are extremists in the Shia community, people who say seditious things, seek to overthrow the government, and engage in violence as a means of creating additional tension. But if there are more of them today than there were on the day demonstrations began in February 2011, the explanation is largely to be found in the royal court—or courts, for the Saudis too played a role here in preventing reform. No one denies that they leaned on the Bahraini royal family to crack down, and of course they sent troops to Bahrain last year.

The underlying problem is simple to understand: the people ruling Bahrain in the al-Khalifa family do not wish to lose power and fear that moves toward democracy—a powerful elected parliament and a civilian rather than a royal prime minister, for example—will result in neutering the monarchy and giving the Shias and Iran too much power. The royal family has struggled over this, with the crown prince apparently favoring reform but more powerful figures—the prime minister, minister of the Royal Court, and the Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defense Force (all of course al Khalifas)—deciding that repression is the better long term bet. The king, who could overrule them all, has either sided firmly with the hard-liners or has been ineffectual and inactive. Since the day last November when he accepted the BICI report he has provided no leadership.

What is to be done? Is it hopeless? Certainly one can come away from meetings with Bahrainis with that feeling, as month after month goes by and things get worse. Time is not on the side of moderates; as in Syria, time and violence are leading to deeper and deeper divisions within the population. And as in Syria, extremists of several varieties, some domestic and many foreign, will sooner or later make their presence known. Still, most Shia appear to favor a compromise solution that moves by stages toward a greater role for the populace in decisions making, and some in the government and royal family acknowledge that force cannot be the long-term solution. Indeed some well-informed people tell me that the Saudis and Emiratis realize this, want things in Bahrain to quiet down, and are now advising the al-Khalifa to find a solution. For the Saudis, the realization may have dawned that while democracy in Bahrain might give ideas to the many Shia in their own Eastern Province, Saudi collusion in endless violence and repression of the Shia in Bahrain might produce an even more unsettling result.

What is missing above all is leadership. Since his acceptance of the BICI report the king has provided almost none, but neither have we—the United States. We are an old friend and ally of Bahrain and seek calm there for many reasons, one of which is the presence there of the Fifth Fleet headquarters. A radicalized or violent Bahrain would be an impossible host for the Fifth Fleet, and would possibly come under greater and greater Iranian influence. Thus far Iran does not seem to be doing much meddling beyond inflammatory broadcasting, but that can always change; terrorism and subversion are among the Islamic Republic’s specialties.

So what have we done thus far? A fair assessment is, nothing. In his UN General Assembly speech last September President Obama said these nice words:

In Bahrain, steps have been taken toward reform and accountability. We’re pleased with that, but more is required. America is a close friend of Bahrain, and we will continue to call on the government and the main opposition bloc — the Wifaq — to pursue a meaningful dialogue that brings peaceful change that is responsive to the people. We believe the patriotism that binds Bahrainis together must be more powerful than the sectarian forces that would tear them apart. It will be hard, but it is possible.

This week, on May 9, Secretary Clinton met with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman and the State Department had similar nice words say:

Secretary Clinton affirmed the long-standing commitment of the United States to a strong partnership with both the people and the Government of Bahrain. They discussed the full range of regional and bilateral issues, including the Bahraini Government’s ongoing efforts to implement the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). Secretary Clinton noted the steps already taken to implement the recommendations, but expressed that much work remains to fully address ongoing human rights issues, including individual cases. She encouraged the Bahraini Government to champion a clear process – in both word and action – that leads to meaningful institutional and political reforms that take into account the interests and aspirations of all Bahrainis.

So, we are for all good things: human rights, reform, accountability, friendship, dialogue, and a process leading to meaningful institutional and political reform. But we also know, fifteen months after the protests began and with the situation deteriorating, that such words are not helping much. They are a substitute for action. There is no American leadership. This will come as no surprise: we “led from behind” in Libya and in Syria our inaction, our determined refusal to lead, is becoming increasingly shocking as the death toll mounts literally each day. A Washington Post editorial rightly described Obama policy toward Syria as “militant passivity.” Considering that even the stakes in Syria have not moved the Obama administration to act, the failure to do more than issue the occasional statement on Bahrain is predictable.

It is also dangerous and foolish. What is needed is far more, and at high levels: a real effort to bring the sides together, of the sort we have repeatedly made in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or undertook in the Balkans. Bring key Bahraini leaders to Washington and have the president and secretary or a high-level designee work with them day after day until something is hammered out; send a top-level empowered emissary to Manama for the same purpose, and have him or her stay for weeks; organize a conference, with the Emiratis and Saudis and Brits (or some other useful combination), where real efforts could be made to hammer out a deal. Has the president discussed this seriously with key officials like the Saudi king or foreign minister, or the Emirati crown prince? Has he pushed them, pressured them, cajoled them? Has he leaned forcefully on the King of Bahrain, or is he too “cool” to engage in that way?

There are many ways to try in Bahrain, but we are not trying. We are wringing our hands from time to time. In Syria thousands have been killed so we wring them more often and more publicly, and at the highest levels. In Bahrain the level of violence is much lower, so the occasional statement is handed out.

If this goes on, in one year or two or five we will wonder why we were foolish enough to do nothing back in 2011 and 2012 when a solution might have been feasible to build. We’ll look at the level of violence, the growing support for radicalism and extremism, the Iranian interference, and the growing complaints about the presence of the Fifth Fleet, and ask why we did not try much harder to help back when it seemed possible. What’s missing in Bahrain is leadership, from the king to be sure, and from the United States as well. We’ll all come to regret it, just as we’ll regret the astonishing refusal to act in Syria as the situation there spiraled downward day after day. The Obama administration’s “militant passivity” is threatening important American interests in the Middle East.











Post a Comment 25 Comments

  • Posted by Nabeel

    You based your entire article on, I heard, I was told, I read. I can only say one thing to you, I LIVE. Yes, I live in Bahrain, I see, I feel, I witness. All of that give me a bull’s eye perspective on the events in Bahrain and it is a really simple conclusion. What we have here is pure terrorism made by Iranians or Iranian operatives. This is the very same terror the West has long fought against.
    So far, Bahraini Sunnis have exhibited the utmost self-restraints against daily terror attacks in an attempt to avoid bloodshed, but the Shia’s are determined to take us down that path.
    Shia’s have forgone all peaceful initiatives and dialogues, for them anything short of holding power is not acceptable and will be considered as a defeat. For the Sunni’s and our surrounding countries this is not an option, never was and never will be.
    Yes, they have always been given posts in the government and a representation of about half of the parliament and had a say in decision making – granted not as much as they liked, but we lived in peace and harmony with them. Things changed and by their own ill-conceived deeds. Now they are the enemy.
    If you really believe that the Iranian influence is only mere inflammatory broadcasts, then I have an ocean front property in Phoenix I would like to sell to you at rock-bottom price. Please don’t be so gullible as to believe the Iranian innocence as the so the called Bahraini opposition would like you to believe. If you buy into that, then you actually believe they are not meddling in Iraq or Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Yemen and the list go on.
    You don’t see God, but that does not stop you from believing God’s existence, in the same token, you may not see the Iranian evil from the safety of DC, but it thrives in Bahrain, so believe in it. Bahrain stands today as the last gateway between the expansion and the exportation of the Iranian revolution and the Arab way of life – the choice are yours. Actually, the choice is ours.

  • Posted by Mahmood Al-Yousif

    Nabeel, is taking a typical stance of denial. And a foot-stomping, fist-thumping one to make his “point” of the oft bandied about but never proven (even by BICI standards) of some interference from the Iranian Ogre. The vast majority of Bahrainis; however, differ and couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about Iran or any other actor for that matter other than wanting to solve our problem through home-grown solutions.

    What do the Bahraini populace want other than the chance to live with dignity? Other than the chance to have their human rights respected? The Manama Document ( http://goo.gl/n105K ) which closely reflects the agreed points by the Crown Prince in March 2011 have not a single sectarian or biased point in them. Their benefit is universal, yet, we have myopic people like Nabeel and others continue to pull the blinkers tighter and shout out that bogus cry of sectarianism or Iranian interference or whatever else other than to recognise the true cause of our problems and the clear and simple way toward their resolution.

    Let me re-iterate. What the Bahraini populace want is to live with dignity under an umbrella of universal human rights. Nothing more. I fail to see what’s wrong with that aspiration.

  • Posted by Khalid

    Thank you Mr. Nabeel

    I’m living in Bahrain too! The one thing missing is the punishment on Traitors of Bahrain and force of law on terrorists burning Bahrain and seeking sectarian conflict.

    The missing in Bahrain is enough foreign intervenes in our internal affairs. Enough journalists may be before feb14 doesn’t know where is Bahrain on the map! Writing about what they don’t know only hypothesis depending on what

  • Posted by Ghalaliya

    I totally agree with Mr. Nabeel and would like to send a message to Mr. Abrams by stating that:

    With all my respect to your thorough analysis for the political situation in Bahrain, I disagree with all what you had said because you’d based your analysis on the results and not the root causes of the problem.
    The solution is to rectify the causes that lead to the current instability in my country, and unfortunately the cause can’t be the solution at the same time, how? Let me explain, the US political hidden and unhidden agendas in the region had played strong role in encouraging the instability in my country by financially and morally supporting the protestors to raise their demands which in reality are not real ones, these demands came to cover for the protestors greedy desire to rule the country and get the opportunity to build the Islamic Republic with strong blessing from Iran religious icons.
    In contrast in my simple understanding these demands which came under the cover of democracy demands had proven its false allegations because me as a Bahraini had lived in this country since born time and have practiced unlimited freedom and got fair rights as any other citizen in Bahrain with the existence of safe and stable environment that I would challenge it does exist in your country.

    Now you want the US entity to participate in resolving the instability in my country! This is the worse solution you’ve ever thought of. The solution from my modest opinion is to stop the US from interfering in my country by supporting the false demands of the protestors who turns to be terrorists and let us the Bahraini people solve our own problems.
    Also I suggest that you save your suggestions and recommendations to solve your country problems rather than analyzing political situations based on biases opinions. If you truly want to judge the situation in Bahrain, you’ve to visit Bahrain to explore the reality by meeting with real people of Bahrain who work hard to build the country with the support of the Royal Family.

  • Posted by A.B.

    The situation on the ground is a much different one than the one you described in the initial opening of this post, all Bahrainis are aware of the volley of reports being sent out from Bahrain Shiite opposition to media outlets, HR orgs, Foreign Govs etc.. all designed to create an image of a victimized and oppressed people who need to be saved from the demonic GoB & the tyranny of the Royal Family; this all of course while sidelining any other group that lives on this small Island to keep the conflict looking like it’s between them and the Gov only. It is unfortunate that they have succeeded in creating this perception abroad and mainly in the West where their target audience are, it was easy for them to manipulate the West by using familiar rhetoric about human rights and democracy while clerical fascist ideology was hidden neatly only to be flaunted at a time of victory which we have witnessed firsthand when Hassan Mushaima thought that their sectarian revolution has succeeded and announced an Iranian model Islamic Republic at a speech in the infamous sectarian pearl roundabout. The Wefaq Islamic Shiite Bloc (The Opposition) is bound by Shiite Clerical hierarchy who is headed by Shaikh Isa Qassim (Al Wefaq’s) Supreme and undisputed leader, he answers to Khamenei of Iran. It’s not hard to do the math; Isa Qassim’s Fatwa to crush police recently resulted in over 700 police injuries, several civilian casualties, and private/public property damage. The tactics they use are planned and executed in ways of organized militias, they deliberately block roads with burning tires, use Molotov cocktails excessively on police or anyone in their way, they created improvised weapons that can shoot darts and projectiles, they created improvised poison smoke grenades and most recently have been using remote detonated IED’s against police.
    This group is closely affiliated with Hezbollah as many of the pictures and mutual support we have seen and heard suggests, they are continually on Iranian or Hezbollah TV Channels and omitting the context of affiliation is naïve. We are dealing with a Shiite insurgency bent on overthrowing the government to assume power, it’s cloaked as a peaceful democracy seeking struggle.

    You mentioned leadership Sir and I agree we should see more leadership and responsibility from the US in containing the Iranian Shiite expansionist strategy and not allow Iran to win by proxy, these are repercussions of a War the U.S. Gov chose to venture through. The situation in Iraq leaves the normal Arab skeptical of American intentions towards the region, after all Iraq was handed over to the Iranians, do we want to see that happen again in Bahrain and spill over to others? Is it an affair that neither we nor the American people are aware of? Just like Iran-Contra which you were involved in?

  • Posted by Dr. KRM

    I do totaly agree with Mr.Nabeel and Khalid,but not with you.first of all,shetii are not majority in Bahrain;second, we are ppeople are living with terrorisim of a punch of Iranian thugs day in day out! All we have to do is thinking how can we protect our kids and ourselves of those crazy,mind exploited thugs. Our government did and still doing its best to aviod clashes with them.ask about the hundereds of enjoured policemen in the hospital. By the way those thugs did their homework perfectly with the embassies of UK and USA and doubled their nationalities so they get protected by other nations. For almost 15 months we can’t sleep or go out on weekends because whom you defending are protesting “peacefuly” with Molotoves, fires and home made bombs. If you don’t know what is happening in Bahrain, stop talking abot it.

  • Posted by Truth about bahrain

    ran is the one to blame in this whole game. They are influencing and brainwashing the youths in the villages here in Bahrain. It’s not a lack of leadership but propaganda.

  • Posted by reem mohammed

    Let me bring in a different prospective on this Mr Elliot as a business consultant in Bahrain which might disappoint you. Every week I have new clients including locals Bahrainis that visit my office to establish new businesses and enterprises.
    My last visit was from a young Bahraini lady – if it makes a huge difference to you, she is shia (however that does not matter to me however it seems to matter to you and the mass media propaganda) who just established a new business and was pleased that her business was thriving and is in the process of establishing another branch of her business elsewhere in the Kingdom.
    Before I go on and despite as per your constant updates of new reports of protests and police “abuses” most of which are reported however without evidence by a rights group that are also politically involved and therefore bias , as well as media mostly again run by opposition individual figures or their wives, what you fail to comprehend is a fact that this is not as you put it a “gap between the Sunni royal family and the mostly Shia population is by all accounts widening” but a gap that a radical opposition would like you to believe.
    As per the accounts of this young Bahraini lady again I will re-affirm is a shia (as it is always important to you to highlight the sunni /shia rhetoric) one of the first topics she started with prior to business was the fact that she and many were tired of the radical youths that terrorize their villages and homes every day and also wished the law would be enforced so they could get about their daily lives without having to hide in their homes. Her and many villagers have had enough of the constant violence that they also object to. I would suggest Mr Elliot that you come down on the ground and let me introduce you to her and many others like her that also disagree with your shia/sunni sentiment.
    Regarding the “democracy” statement. Please explain how democracy will change my life?
    Will by having “democracy” mean I will be entitled to live in a palace? Will “democracy” provide me with a job? Will “democracy” solve my housing problems? Democracy certainly hasn’t solved yours.
    There are over forty millions jobless in USA with ten millions homeless and the lucky is the one who lives in tent city. There is no health insurance and no security for any American without paying life time endless health insurance policies for the same corporate that destroyed their economy. At same time their government has been looting their future and spent trillions on endless adventures against Arabs- John Churchilly
    Democracy is a word frequently used in Western politics. We are constantly told that you live in a democracy and that your political system is “democratic” and that nations that do not match these standards are classed as “undemocratic”. D Robertson, writing in 1986, stated that:
    “Democracy is the most valued and also the vaguest of political terms in the modern world”
    Robertson continued by stating that the word only starts to mean something tangible in the modern world when it is prefixed with other political words, such as direct, representative, liberal and parliamentary.
    When you speak about “democracy” you fail to provide the public with a full insight into the meaning of your “democratic” process.
    There is no such thing as a real democracy, it doesn’t exist.
    The only real democracy is a direct democracy which no country in the western world can boast they have to date after thousands of years.
    So what you speak about when you refer to “democracy” is a “Representative Democracy” like the UK as an example where you elect an MP who is supposedly supposed to represent you, yet once elected you don’t really get any representation at all.
    Basically, the people hand over the responsibility of decision making to someone else who wishes to be in that position and they are held accountable to them. If they fail to perform (or if the party has done badly during its time in office) they can be removed by the people of their constituency. In this way, the people exercise control over their representatives.
    However, by handing to their MP’s the right to participate in decision making within the Commons, the electorate is removing itself from the process of decision making…. So much for the democratic process…
    For the point that you make regarding having spoken to Bahrainis who acknowledge these divisions, it’s about time you come and speak to Bahrainis like me.
    And another point, the centre will always hold, at the end of the day what you fail to understand is the fact that regardless of how you look at things there are many Bahrainis that have both shia and sunni- as you always like to reference- within their family nucleus.
    When you have a chance to sit with ordinary people in Bahrain, you will notice that the Bahrainis that you have sat and spoken with are the ones politically and selfishly motivated for personal gain.

    Now I am neither pro nor antigovernment, but what I am is pro truth, and that is the truth.
    Years ago Mr Elliot, the imperialists spoke about “Civilisation” and how important it was to “export” civilization, today you speak about “democracy” and are in the process of “exporting” a “democracy”.
    This is what your “civilization” did to a great nation.
    Lord Macaulay addressed the British Parliament in 1835:
    “I do not think we would ever conquer this country unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage”
    “I have travelled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber that I do not think we would ever conquer this country unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and therefore I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture, and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.”
    A few years later, with “civilization” came beggars, thieves and the wealth was gone.
    Hope I am making a clear point. It is a little like your democracy that you insist on, yet fail to show what democracy will reap the citizens of this nation besides voting.
    For your point on violence and alienation, this must come from people like you to speak about the truth of what you wish to export to our nation that is a failure in yours.

    What went wrong? You ask.. What went wrong was a western promise to radicals to assist with a coup without taking into account a vast majority that you fail to hear the voices of even today.
    A western promise to assist without taking to account a silent majority that awoke from a political sleep that went out on to the streets to demand their voice be heard to.
    You must remember that during February and March of last year, the US administration – According to the BICI report (that you and the mass media like to constantly refer to however not on all the points)- and the opposition was in the process of forming an interim government without democratically conferring with the rest of the population , now that in itself caused an uproar and a widening mistrust and gap in society. That on its own damaged the trust.

    I personally believe that the real underlying problem is simple to understand: the people ruling the western so called “democracies” do not wish to lose power and fear that moves to Arab independency will leave them out of a “loop” and no longer in power dictating to the Arab and the rest of the world as they have done for centuries.

    What is to be done? Well Mr Elliot, in my opinion, ask the west to stop interfering in the Middle East and elsewhere, they have been doing so for centuries. Is it hopeless? Yes it is because the West just can’t manage that.

  • Posted by Flah

    In Bahrain things are so simple unless we want to see otherwise. We have a family that run the country as if it runs its own supermarket. Also, we have PM who held this position for over 42 years. We have Suadis troops taking over the whole country. Blaming Iran or people from the moon will not change these factors. Bottom line: Bahrain run by bunch of gangs.

  • Posted by Unknown Soldier

    Let me start with thanking you on your honesty & your fear about Bahrain future. And thanks for not seeing the situation from one eye & hear from one side, right now Bahrain need from the people all over the world to judge the events from their prespective & from what they see not what their political thoughts or what their friends and family think. Mr. as you said Bahrain & it people need leadership and we need from HM king Hamad to stand up & prove that he’s the boss here.
    Thank you once again for saying the truth

  • Posted by noora

    Abrahams is extrapolating by comparing the situation in Bahrain to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Both are 2 different geopolitical issues.

  • Posted by Motixavier

    Well balanced article on Bahrain, Spot on Mr Elliott !

  • Posted by Rashid

    When the government talks about tougher measures against opposition it is directed towards Human Rights activists who have been using defamatory language against the regime on social networks. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech.

  • Posted by Human rights are not a tool to play with it

    Only now begun the countdown to the new era of change in Bahrain, which proves that is inevitable.

    Data and events of the day after day are all the signs and indications of the emergence of a new reality requires the presence of the inevitability of change.

  • Posted by Al Mudahka

    Thank you for your report and concern about Bahrain

    When you understand Shia’a relegion and their loyality to Ali Khaminie then you will understand demand in Bahrain.

    Most of who called themselves opposition are an Iranian origin and loyal to Iran.

  • Posted by DR.NO comment

    Sir with my respect to your perspective and regardless the causes and consequences, the image is wider and the problem is deeper. The whole world is facing severe threat due to Iran’s religious expansion plan. We are not talking only about the plot that was exposed Bahrain. while your analysis that defend a small group of terrorists belong to IRAN/Hizbollh Org the top terrorist organization was classified by U.S government itself.

    Sir these facts and researches carried out by the Government of the United States itself and U.S politicians that may help you to generate a new deeper perspective toward IRAN’S agents opearating around the world, not only in Bahrain. I also complitly agree with Mr. Nabeel and others.





    Good luck

  • Posted by Bdoor

    There are a lot of facts that are reveled everyday if you properly investigate, you’ll find out a lot about the conspiracy against Bahrain.
    The Shia protesters took away our safety and spread fear among the people of Bahrain. It used to be very safe before Feb. 14th (the so called revolution), we could go anywhere even isolated areas and even after midnight, we had no fear. However, that has changed forever.
    After 14th of Feb. 2011, it became clear the so called revolution ties with Iran and Hezbollah, showing same tactics used in attacks against Sunnies.
    If the protesters can fabricate movies and lie to international media and organizations, they can’t lie to us Bahrainis because we are all eyewitness to what they did and they should be punished for their crimes. Be assured that what went on in Bahrain was no call for democracy on the contrary it was an invitation to Iran to occupy Bahrain using fake human rights people and bribed media personnel.
    Did you know that here in Bahrain we don’t need health insurance, simply because health care is provided for free.
    Unlike many other countries around the world we have no homeless people, because the Government provides flats or houses to own to citizens in need.
    Bahrain has a very low unemployment rate of 3.4% in 2011, it was announced by the minister, he is Shia.
    Education is free too and the list goes on, by the way just for your information the Government supports flour,chicken ….etc (e.g. meat costs less than $3 for a kilo).
    Yet, Shia protest claiming they want democracy while they obey Iran Khomeini’s orders through his agent Isa Kasem.
    A lot of Shia women became Sunni because Shia law practiced in court is so demeaning 4 women (Bahrainis have the choice to go to Sunni or Shia court).
    You might be interested in this blog http://brave-bahrain.blogspot.com/ refer to May 2011 articles

  • Posted by ibn adam

    The One Percent again!!!
    First of all, I am a Bahraini Sunni. This admission is meant to deter any false accusations that may arise of those who belong to the one percent category or their cronies, whom they only care about their official positions, their salaries or how many digits in their savings accounts. And, of course, public relations corporations and paid freelance writers.
    I t is true that there is a growing radicalization within both Sunni and Shia communities and growing divisions in their society. It is also true that those stem from fears among Sunnis that democracy will lead to Iranian influence and eventually domination. However, the center will hold.
    Any analogy between the parliament and the dissolved council of the seventies is out of proportion. The latter council has more parliamentary powers than the former. Interestingly, among the members of the national council was Ayat Allah Essa Qasim. Now, who dissolved the council, who is to blame?
    Have anyone noticed why the Bahraini Government has never alluded to its first parliamentary experiment? It is “divide and rule” scheme. No wonder, it is the permanent intimidationg campaign. It has always yielded good results, as far as Sunnis are concerned.
    Dispelling illusions:

    “The November 2011 report of the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry (or BICI) was seen, at the time, as a turning point. The BICI report was about human rights issues, not about the structural political questions that Bahraini society must address. Those issues were beyond the BICI’s jurisdiction, so it rightly did not reach them.”

    (The main aim of this report was to acquit the King Hamad of any accusations. Then, the regime was obsessed with doing anything to prevent referring Bahrain’s file to the International Court of Justice or commissioning an international committee to investigate what had actually happened in Bahrain).
    “The Shia community, people who say seditious things, seek to overthrow the government, and engage in violence as a means of creating additional tension.”
    The Shia community in Bahrain is religiously polarized. It is part of their culture, even if they are not religious, they tend to seek approval from their marjaih al taqleed. This religious tendency is not entirely confined to the Bahraini Shia. It is applicable to all Shia.
    Let us assume that Shia take control of Bahrain, they will, firstly, embrace democracy. However, later, they y will impose valayet al faqih, through democratic levers. Isn’t it the peoples’ choice!
    “The underlying problem is simple to understand: the people ruling Bahrain in the al-Khalifa family do not wish to lose power and fear that moves toward democracy—a powerful elected parliament and a civilian rather than a royal prime minister, for example—will result in neutering the monarchy and giving the Shias and Iran too much power.”
    “The royal family has struggled over this, with the crown prince apparently favoring reform- as long as he money cycle is running, F1 and mega projects that target foreign investors. But, let Bahraini citizens wait for decades to get a housing unit. This is not the end of the story. It is just the beginning of an indecent whirlpool, in which a citizen loses everything. (This sentiment is prevalent among Sunnis- except these who are benefiting from the regime or being under the illusory impression that if the Prime minister steps down, the kingdom will fall into the hands of Iranian puppets).
    The recent trend which starts with arresting some of the bogus Shia political activists is an indication of a Saudi backing. Bahrain does not want to be ruled by an absolute monarchy or being under the cloak of a cosmetic constitutional democracy, either.
    N. I can elaborate and cite document to prop up my arguments.
    With my best,
    A Free Sunni

  • Posted by Duri MOhammed

    The Bahrain scenario can best be understood if we subtract US and Iranian influence from the equation. The double standard of the US is a dangerous game , for their strategic importance they can sell you off, what ever they say as this author of this article wrote has nothing to do with providing solution to the crisis.They look it from their prism.The reason given is to export of democracy, which is irrelevant to Bahrain.
    The Iranian influence is reflected by some Shia protesters and their ‘leaders’, who in the name of democracy want to change Bahrain into an Iranian Islamic republic.The motive behind Iranian influence is to export Shiaism.
    I forgot, the radicalized members of of the sects should also be out of the equation that will give you a civilized Bahrain , ready for democratic march.
    In the presence of the US and Iranian influence and the presence of radicals, Bahrain is unlikely to go along the peaceful way of democracy.
    The Al Khalifas are the best catalyst in the presence of sectarian orgy among the population.They should ensure equal distribution of resources, job opportunities and other social amenities.
    Amid the sectarian polirization demand for an elected government is preparing for a long war of sectarianism as we can see in Iraq.
    By the way what is happening in Iraq is the result of US democracy, why not the author write about this, than digging another hole?
    As for the rule of law Bahrain has gone very slow. Had the rule of law be applied the current situation would haave occured.Even now thereis time , the terrorists should face justice and the sectarian parties such as Al wefaq should be dissolved and the so called heads should be brought accountable for what they have done to this very virgin land.They are actors who are controlled by remote control from Iran and Hizbullah. One qquestion I have to the US is can some body maake agreement with terrorists?, expecting this to happen is foolishness the American way.

  • Posted by ibn adam

    The point has been missed again. The tendency to attribute any incidents or events to foreign powers is ingrained in the Arabs’ mentality. I thanked Mr. Abrams for writing this thought- provoking article to stir the still water.
    Obama’s “ wait and see” or positive engagement with the Middle East Spring, provided that no US interests under threat, was entirely misconstrued by both Arabs and their governments, as a collusion between the US and other regional powers in the region.
    However, the US has still the powerful lever to put pressure on these countries along the Gulf. And it will always be relevant as long as Sheikhs rule this sensitive part of the world, whereby American interests and stability of the region converge.
    It is the US, who is able to be the guarantor of initiating a truly democratic process in Bahrain. As for the rule of law in Bahrain, it is absolutely not independent or integrated, this can obviously be perceived through the null of certain verdicts recently, after it was being criticized by international community and NGOs.
    Finally, it is important to re-quote what Mr. Abrams says:
    “The underlying problem is simple to understand: the people ruling Bahrain in the al-Khalifa family do not wish to lose power and fear that moves toward democracy—a powerful elected parliament and a civilian rather than a royal prime minister, for example—will result in neutering the monarchy and giving the Shias and Iran too much power.”
    Free Sunni

  • Posted by Just Bahraini

    The comments really go to illustrate one of the points repeatedly made. The people trying to defend the status quo are deeply in denial about how to go about finding a solution, and month by month the situation gets more polarized and difficult to resolve. I share the author’s fear that one day, not too distant, we will ask: why did we not do more to resolve the structural issues and preserve Bahrain. I also share Mahmood Al Yousif’s view that the Manama Document is the closest roadmap so far presented. I am a Sunni Bahraini and deeply saddened by the wastage of Bahrain’s most precious national resource: not hydrocarbons, but goodwill.

  • Posted by ibn adam

    The comments really go to illustrate one of the points repeatedly made. Bahrainis are torn between tribal loyalty, religious polarization ( Sunnis and Shia ), and selfish interests which are deeply hidden under bombastic titles, and which entirely under the umbrella of Al Wafaq society.
    The structural problem cannot and will not be resolved domestically because Bahrain’s geopolitical realities cannot be changed. It is even vivid in the so-called document “Manama Document “in which Arabian Gulf is referred to as the Gulf.
    Furthermore, each party has not any intention of compromising his interests, but to score points and hide a digger behind its back.
    As for national unity, social schism has always deeply buried inside us and it always resurfaces whenever sectarian issues raised or one sect feels disenfranchised. The proper term to be used here is coexistence.

    Free Sunni

  • Posted by Nabeel

    The Iranians were determined to prove me right. Just yesterday, the head of their parliament a guy named Larijani stated that Bahrain is Iran’s 19th province, and belongs to Iran. So it is not just an inflammatory broadcasting thing !! get your facts right please. I rest my case

  • Posted by Ibn Adam

    First of all, no one deny that Iran is projecting its power through some shia’s pockets across the region. However, Iran is just a spark but the powder keg is political and social grievances.

    By the way, the one who claimed that Bahrain had been the 14th province till 1971, was an Iranian MP, not Larijani.

  • Posted by Hssain Jasim

    Dear Sir, I did some grammer corrections! Thanks.

    Some of the comments reminds me of a storey that an Arab journalist once wrote in the London based Alhayat newspaper. The storey goes like this: “After a visit to one of the countries in the gulf, I was queuing to check-in for my London bound flight at the airport. The queue was an utter madness. The passengers approached the check-in counter from all sides and flagged their tickets to be checked-in. It was an utter madness. An hour later we were on board the seven hours flight and we finally arrived at London Heathrow airport and low and behold, a miracle has happened, while flying to London those passengers who acted like herds of cattle were transformed into human being as they all queued in an orderly manner to present their passports to the immigration officers. Wow, what a miracle?”

    This storey is like some of the comments above, the comments are from a well educated Bahrain citizens who graduated from Europe and the USA, they all interacted with students from all over the world and lived in a respectable environment and practiced democratic attitudes and participated in free discussions with Europeans and Americans and even differed with them on ideology and later on mingled and dined with them and treated them with respect. Yet, these same graduates on their journey back to Bahrain from Universities went through that miracle, which on that flight back to Bahrain, were transformed back into uneducated lot and will fight with every Bahraini who does not share his ideology! This same graduate is became an person again and use animal instinct to react to Bahrainis who are demanding basic human rights and a decent life. A life that guarantees dignity not based being a Sunni to get a job in a ministry or a bank.

    Like in the 50’s in the USA, McCarthy style court trials took place on Bahrain National TV and Sunnis came forward and told on their Shia friends with lies and denounced them as traitors only so that the Shia get sacked from their jobs and these Sunnis get their jobs: doctors, nurses, teachers, oil technicians, office workers. No one was spared. This is the 60 years after McCarthy of the USA used American radio and TV against his own countrymen for just being Communists. Wife told on her husband, sisters on their brothers and friends on friends.

    What an utter shame, one only have to look at twitter from these very persons who commented on this article, twitter, which was created to share good decent messages like birds twittering on trees to other birds with songs and where other birds can find good food. Twitter in Bahrain is used to Blasphemy Shia about their religious activities and swear at them and curse them and boycott them. Some of my closest Sunni friends whom I have know for 30 years don’t speak to me anymore.

    Only Righteousness can prevail.

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