Posted on 19-02-2011
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

There may yet be hope for Bahrain.  The Persian Gulf kingdom ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty has been rocked by protests in recent days from its Shiite majority underclass.  King Hamad then responded to peaceful protests by sending in the goons and using helicopters to strafe mourners at funerals.

And now the police have been abruptly withdrawn.  Pearl Square in downtown Manama, the heart of the protests like Tahrir Square in Cairo, now belongs to the protesters.

Like many if the Middle East dictatorships the al-Khalifas appear to have been split among the hardliners (led by the King’s uncle and long time Prime Minister) and the moderates (led by the crown prince and perhaps the King).  The tensions between the two camps were documented by the WikiLeaks cables.  Now the balance seems to have veered sharply towards the moderates, possibly helped along by admonishments from President Obama.

If the good news holds it appears that the virus of democracy is proving harder to suppress than previously thought.  The inbred royals ruling Bahrain’s neighbors must be looking at this in alarm.  People tend to discount the value of social networks in the recent bout of Arab unrest.  Personally, I think YouTube deserves far more credit.  Without the horrifying videos of police brutality, it is unlikely that Bahrain’s hardliners (who still value their ability to be integrated into world society) would have backed down so quickly.  The absence of such videos in Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia (no to mention the greater willingness of those despots to shed blood) poses a bigger challenge to regime change in those countries.

Next up Algeria?  Yemen?  Who knows….we live in interesting times.

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[…] would ease the suppression of their Shiite majority (this blogger was among those caught up in premature excitement), but that hope has been crushed with Saudi military intervention.  Meanwhile, Bashar […]

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