Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Eyes on Bahrain

While the world is transfixed by events in Libya, George Friedman is watching Bahrain. Link here.

Libya is descending into civil war. Violence abounds, and with it comes great new footage. Libya is like a train wreck, and we always slow down to take a long, hard look at carnage.

Geopolitically, Libya matters. It does not matter as much as the potential changes in the balance of power in the Persian Gulf, but the Libyan insurrection fits neatly into the media’s favorite narrative: the people are rising up and overthrowing authoritarian dictators.

I can only offer the sketchiest summary of the complex interplay of the interests of Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, America, and the Gulf states.

Within Bahrain the minority Shia are revolting against the ruling Sunni monarchy. The Shia are apparently being supported by Iran; the Sunnis are being actively supported by the Saudis.

In addition, Friedman explains, when American forces exit Iraq this year they will leave an unstable Iraqi democracy and a regional power vacuum. For the Iranians, this looks like an opportunity, to gain control over the Persian Gulf.

For now, a skaky stability reigns in the region, but instability has been rearing its ugly head, and the Saudis, according to Friedman, are very, very afraid.

1 comment:

Retriever said...

My sister and brother in law lived in Bahrain for years He was a Brit in foreign currency exchange. Bahrain has only trade and the dubious distinction of being Sin City for the Arab World . Those rich young Saudis vroom over the causeway in their fancy cars to drink, gamble and find hot women, as well as to exchange currency, etc.

The place has few cultural monuments. The Bahrainis lately do little work and don't produce much. Most food is brought in. The King gives large subsidies to people for their support, and imports Tamils and Sri Lankans to do most of the heavy labor. As in other parts of the Arab world, these guest laborers work u der hard conditions with few legal rights. The Shiites are anti- Western, despite the fact that all of the island's prosperity depends on amicable ties with the West. Should a radical Muslim regime take over, the financial activity that presently takes place there would shift elsewhere. Bahrain has served as a valuable safety valve for young rich Arabs to sow wild oats.

I agree that Iran is a real threat. One thing people fail to take seriously in this country is the extent to which the leaders of these countries have been alternately bribing and brutalizing their populations. It's analogous to parents who both indulge and beat up their young children: hardly a good model of discipline and order from those in charge. This is part of the reason why the events over there are so volatile. Few tradi tins of orderly political transitions, loyal opposition, or incremental change. And as for separation of religion and State....