Iran, Iraq Warn of Gulf Turmoil over Bahrain: Cole in Truthdig

My column at Truthdig is out, entitled “The Sleeping Giants of Tiny Bahrain.”

Excerpt:

‘ Risking the radicalization of Bahrain’s Shiite community may be a very bad idea. Worries on that score are what led Vice President Joe Biden to ask again in a phone call Sunday to the king of the island nation for a negotiated settlement between the Sunni monarchy and his repressed Shiite majority. Meanwhile, as Iraqi Shiites demonstrated in favor of their coreligionists in Bahrain, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned somewhat apocalyptically this weekend that Saudi intervention against Bahrain’s Shiites could ignite a “sectarian war” in the Persian Gulf region.

Bahrain’s protest movement, inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, began Feb. 14. The Bahraini crowds demanded the resignation of the prime minister, whom they accused of ordering severe and persistent human rights abuses. Khalifa Al Khalifa, the uncle of the king, has held the post since Bahrain became independent of Britain in 1971. The largely Shiite protesters, led by the Wifaq Party, also insisted that the constitution be altered to give more power to the Shiite majority, and that the country become a constitutional monarchy. Three small parties (including al-Haq, which had split from Wifaq), began calling in early March for an outright republic, and of course they frightened the Sunni monarchy and its Saudi backers most of all. ‘

Read the whole thing.

For more see this Aljazeera English report, “Bahrain Security accused of Excessive Force.”

And the same channel’s report, “Tensions Rise over Bahrain ‘Land-Grab’ ”

Consider also the following report translated from Persian by the USG Open Source Center, which indicates the depth of anger in Iran over the use of Saudi and other Sunni troops to repress the largely Shiite Bahran demonstrators:

“Iran: Defense Minister Denounces Saudi Arabia’s Military Interference in Bahrain
Iranian Students News Agency
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 …

According to the ISNA news desk, at the end of the government cabinet meeting and in response to a question regarding Saudi Arabia’s military interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs, the Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, Commander General Ahmad Vahidi, denounced this act and said: “Governments must protect the lives, possessions, and independence of their people and not invite other countries to hurt and kill their own people.” He reiterated: “These kinds of actions increase friction and destroy the region’s stability and security. If these uncalculated and unlawful acts become customary, the region will turn into a center of hostility, conflict, and incendiarism, and the only ones to suffer will be the region’s nations.”

(Description of Source: Tehran Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) in Persian — Conservative news agency linked to University Jihad, a state-backed student organization generally supportive of government policy and providing conservative reporting. On 19 June 2010, University Jihad Head Dr. Hamid Reza Tayyebi appointed caretaker Ali Mottaqiyan as the director-general of ISNA for three years. URL: www.isna.ir )”

For more on the subject, see “Sunni-Shiite Tension Boils in Iraq, Gulf over Bahrain”

and

“Bahrain Demonstrators Repressed”.

And Justin Gengler’s informed commentary here.

4 Responses

  1. Thank you for writing about Bahrain. It’s true that thus far Iran has had no hand in the protests. My only critique of your article is that it makes it seem like the opposition was only among the Shia, when there were/are Sunnis involved in the opposition and democracy movement as well. Even Sunni leaders and activists (even one Salafi!) who are now arrested without charge, counsel or access to their families. The poor Salafi who was arrested only went to Pearl roundabout to give a speech about how Sunni and Shia are both Muslims, and should be friends. And for this he was arrested! Sectarianism is the strategy of rule of the regime, and only slowly over time is it becoming a social reality that could lead to civil war–but not yet. In this attempted revolution, Sunni and Shia were standing side by side calling for a constitutional monarchy.

  2. And one more thing. Please don’t give the US this excuse:

    “Fear that the lease of the U.S. naval base will be summarily revoked if Washington pushes Manama too hard probably plays a part in the Obama administration’s timid statements on the island’s crisis.”

    Bahrain will NEVER ask the US to leave because Al Khalifa knows that it cannot defend itself from Iran, and neither can Sauds (who couldn’t even help Kuwait kick out Saddam). The only excuse the US has for not intervening more in Bahrain is Saudi oil (not even Bahraini oil).

  3. It is not an excuse, it is an explanation. And I can guarantee you that Washington is not as sure as you are about the security of that deal, more especially if al-Haq did come to power.

    • Lousy analysis and justification. The sacrifices will never go in vain.

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