Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Another Helpful Take on Bahrain

Jean-Francois Seznec of Georgetown University has just published an interesting analysis of the Bahrain crisis on a site affiliated with the Arab Studies Journal.

He focuses on the combination of four volatile factors:
  • The split between the reformist crown prince, Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa, and his great-uncle the (corrupt but powerful) prime minister, Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa.
  • An opposition divided between the reformist al-Wefaq group, which had elected eighteen members to the gerrymandered and weakly empowered lower house of parliament, and the more radical al-Haq group, led by Hassan Mushaima.
  • The younger, Facebook generation which emphasizes being Bahraini over religious sectarianism.
  • The large regional neighbors, Saudi Arabia (population 20 million) and Iran (population 65 million). The Saudis back the royal family hardliners (the prime minister), while Iran backs the mostly Shia protestors.
No matter what, he argues, the royal family will have to lose power, either to the Saudis (in the case of a crackdown) or to the population (in the case of a negotiated transition toward constitutional monarchy).

If the U.S. State Department is wise, it should be supporting negotiations toward real power-sharing. I think the appointment of a Shiite prime minister out of a freely, fairly, and democratically elected parliament would end this crisis. 

For now, the U.S. embassy in Bahrain was sharing donuts with protestors who were asking the U.S. for help the other day (see video).

It'll take more than sugar to satisfy the opposition. We need our government to push for a democratic transition in Bahrain, or else this crisis will only continue.

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