One year already passed since the popular uprising in Bahrain. The world has watched in awe the brutal suppression by the ruling Monarchy of Peaceful demonstrators . The western power’s reaction was surprisingly different than what happen in Egypt. The western powers and the United States official statements were not as strong condemnations as they were regarding Egypt. Certainly there appears to be a double standard in the case of Bahrain, although the Americans voiced their concerns over the violence in Bahrain but it was not strong enough to draw the line for the Bahrain authorities. It is no secret that the Americans have a major strategic security interests in Bahrain mainly it is the station for guarding the Persian Gulf from the threat of Iran. For decades Bahrain has been the buffer zone for the American fifth fleet in the Persian Gulf. So, the Bahrain dilemma represents a real test for the American sincere desire for advocating human rights and democracy. It is a common knowledge that Bahrain is ruled by a Sunni Muslim minority of predominantly Shiite Muslims. This sectarian factor makes the Bahrain event different from that of Egypt and Tunisia-where in those two countries no such factor is in the equation of the struggle. This factor was exploited by the Bahrain regime and amplified in the official statement of the Bahrain foreign minister in justifying their brutal crackdown since the popular Bahrain uprising began. Furthermore, the Arab media coverage was very bias and indifferent in comparison to the events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Their bias stand towards Bahrain events is not surprising because all major media outlets are owned by the same authoritarian regimes-Sunni Muslim; Al Jazeera owned by the royal family of Qatar, al Arabia is owned by a Saudi prince, etc..Consequently these Arab media outlets have become the mouth piece of these regimes who are are driven by their agenda to divert the attention of their own populations from uprising against them and to extend their influence in serving their strategic intersts in the region.
It is clear that the Bahrain government are attempting to cling to power through the exploitation of the ancient sectarian Sunni and Shiite dispute and in the hope to seek the pity of the western powers in saving their rule from the fury of the will of people. This religious factor is being utilized as powerfull method for luanching a counter revolution. The Bahrain government is trying to use this religious dispute and linking it to the bogyman card that is of the Iranian connection. The western powers are terrified of the Iranian influence on the Shiite populations of the Persian Gulf. Any Shiite popular movement in any of these countries which are ruled by authoritarian regimes and supported by the west, are quickly connected to an Iranian plot. This reality was also seen during the Shiite uprising of Iraq after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991. Ironically, in contrast we find, in the case of Arab countries that are ruled by authoritarian regimes of predominantly Sunni Muslims, a different card is played. Whenever there is a pro democracy movement in such countries these regimes tie such movement to al-Qaeda or to some other Muslim terrorists groups; as was the case in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
There is one question to be asked here and that is how the Bahrain government was able to exploit the “Shiite and Sunni card” and the “Iranian factor” as explained above? And consequently lead the western powers to exploit it, to play along, or to buy into it; to keep in mind that Bahrain is a country of Shiite majority ruled by Sunni minority? And how come the same scenario of exploitation but such sectarian factor is not present; such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya-where these countries are mainly Sunni Muslims government and people- the card of al-Qaeda were used but the western powers did not seem to exploit, play along or buy into it. In other words, it seems that the threat of the Al-Qaeda in respect to the pro-democracy movement that are predominantly Sunni Muslims, is far less than that of the Iranian connection in respect to pro-democracy movements in predominantly Shiite populations?
The reason for this double standards of the western powers, in dealing with such countries of different circumstances and political factors as explained above, which need some explanations. In my opinion, as it is very evident that there are two enemies namely A-Qaeda in respect to the Sunni countries or majority Sunni Muslims and Iran in respect to countries of majority Shiite Muslims. Consequently, the western powers seem to respond differently to such realities. When examining the western powers responses to Middle East political situations, and carefully analyzing their calls for the democratic reformations in the region one can establish a clear pattern and that is the west is not driven by sincere desire to pursue freedom and Democracy in the true sense however their initiatives are essentially driven by interests and accidentally driven by values . Now these two enemies are different in strength and the real challenge they pose to the west. On one hand if we take Al-Qaeda it is clear that their strength have been significantly reduced militarily by the relentless military operations conducted by the NATO forces led by the United states of America since the event of 911 in 2001, and lead to killing many of their leaders including their notorious leader Osama bin Laden last year. Furthermore, Al-Qaeda was challenged by the Muslim regimes through various means; Al-Qaeda organization was outlawed and its members were prosecuted and brought to justice. And these Muslim governments attempted a campaign of religious reform aimed at challenging the ideology of al-Qaeda and introduce a more moderate form of the Muslim religion. Consequently Al-Qaeda threat was greatly reduced and became manageable by the western powers. On the other hand, if we look at the Iranian growing threat in the most strategic area of the world “the Persian Gulf” This threat is exponentially growing due to the Iranian nuclear ambitions. And the Iranians are not a terrorist organization like Al-Qaeda rather it is a legitimate state recognized by the world community and have endless resources at all levels-military, economy, energy and manpower. Hence Iran poses a real threat to the interests of the western powers in the Persian Gulf region. Furthermore, since the Iranian regime is a theocratic Shiite Muslim system hence it poses a real threat to Sunni authoritarian regimes in the Arab world and poses a real challenge to Sunni Muslim establishments, namely the “the Salafi Sunni form of Islam and Wahhabism as well as other Sunni Muslims establishments.
However, there are many indications and various messages coming from many high ranking US officials which suggest that the overall desire of the US towards Bahrain political turmoil is a regime change but they are certainly constrained by the Iranian growing threat and their influence on the Shiite population of Bahrain. So, any political change in Bahrain ought to be sanctioned by the US and well thought out in order to sustain their strategic interests in the Persian Gulf region. This may take some time because the US share the view and predicament towards the rest of Oils Persian Gulf States and they are all on the US “menu of regime change” So, the United States are up against many monarchies to deal with, for regime change, which controls the biggest Oil reserves in the world. The United States have two options, in my opinion, in respect to the Middle East, either to watch in despair the fall of these regimes by the fury of the wind of change in the Middle East or they could mold such change into their own image.
On different front the events in Syria are very disturbing and need to be analyzed based on its own merits. This will be my next article.