Monday, March 21, 2011

Poppycock, Bahrain-style

The March 21, 2011, article by Ethan Bronner uncritically presents the position of the wealthy Sunni elite in Bahrain.  It is interesting to hear their point of view, but the reader might fairly expect that Bronner would weigh the key claims.  For instance, in the article that draws largely on an interview with 'Atif Abdulmalik, a prominent banker, Bronner states:
"Much of the push for democratic reform here, as elsewhere in the region, has come from economic hard times. Bahraini supporters of the government note that in this country there is free education, free medical care, heavily subsidized housing as well as no taxes. Budgetary troubles meant home construction was delayed, pushing some of the poor to join the demonstrations."
One needs to ask what percentage of the Shi'i population benefits from such programs, what efforts are being made to extend employment to poor communities; what steps are being taken blatant discrimination in the treatment of Shi'i versus Shi'i villages, and what measures are being taken to end corrupt election practices that disempower the minority.   The following CNN report, from 2007, provides a glimpse of living conditions among the Shi'a. The conditions described continue to persist.

While the GCC intervention in Bahrain has ratcheted the geopolitical stakes in Bahrain, there is no credible evidence that Iran played any important role in fomenting, planning or actively supporting the protests.  Thus, the claims of King Hamad that the introduction of Saudi and UAE troops has thwarted Iran is nonsense, but it very much a key ingredient in the Arab Gulf regime's narrative.  The Bahraini monarch's claims are in the same league as Mu'amar Qadhafi's allegations that his opponents are members of a--Qaeda.

No doubt, most Sunni Bahrainis are fiercely opposed to living in an Iran-dominated state, but few of the Baharnah, the indigeneous Shi'i Bahrainis aspire to do so either.  The fact that one encounters symbols of resistance, pictures of Hasan Nasrallah for instance, in some Shi'i sites hardly does more than illustrate the resonance of the theme of resistance so identified with Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Previous posts here on Bahrain, some based on my 2008 field research there.

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