Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bahrain's Sunni Awakening

I have a new article out for the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) based partly on a few recent blog posts about Sunni mobilization in Bahrain. The article--which is quite long compared to others I've written--argues that while the one-year anniversary of the uprising is likely to occasion many analyses leveraging the Shi'a opposition vs. Sunni government angle of the crisis, in fact Bahrain's Sunnis have played just as large a role in determining the previous year's political trajectory as have Shi'a citizens.

Please excuse the inelegant prose as the piece was heavily edited for style, and I am not important enough to demand my work remain unedited. The first paragraph, for example, should read:
As Bahrain’s latest bout with widespread political unrest nears its one-year anniversary, analysis of the protracted crisis continues to focus almost exclusively on a single dyad in this longstanding multiparty conflict. Depending upon one’s orientation, the ongoing political mobilization of Bahraini Shi‘a either is a continuation of a decades-long struggle for basic societal reform, or an opportunistic attempt at wholesale takeover supported in spirit if not in deed by foreign sympathizers. Yet, by either reading, the standoff between Bahrain’s Shi‘a-led opposition and its Sunni government is the heart of the matter, this small island but a microcosm of the larger competition for geopolitical dominance being fought across the region between Iran, the Arab Gulf monarchies, and their great power patrons.
Read the rest here.

Update: Big day for interviews. For some reason 'Adel Flaifel is interviewed by the GDN as a faux Gulf politics expert. Too bad they didn't capitalize on his knowledge of organizing militias. Among the good lines from the interview is this reference to a "Sunni-Shi'ite cold war" put into the mouth of the Turkish president:
"Iran is fighting to keep the Syrian regime, but it is doomed to fail as Turkish President Abdullah Gul told the Iranians: 'You are now fighting a Sunni-Shi'ite cold war, and you will lose it at the hands of Sunnis, who have a leadership and become stronger after revolutions.'"
Somehow I think that would have made a bigger media splash had Gul actually said that.

And bad Miami police chief-turned-worse Bahrain police adviser John Timoney is interviewed on NPR's All Things Considered. (Direct link to .mp3 audio here.) We should get a chance to see his police in action again today as al-Wifaq has called for another rally near its headquarters in defiance of the Ministry of Interior's rejection of its "permit."

Update 2: I just noticed that the full video of the Bahrain-themed Doha debate of late December is now available on the intertubes. So for those who haven't seen it:

Update 3: Every day it seems I could add another paragraph to the post titled "How About that Police Reform?" Just a few days after John Timoney's interview with NPR in which he promoted his "new code of conduct" for Bahrain's police forces, we have the following scene from Muharraq, where mourners attended the funeral of the man found "drowned" in al-Amwaj last week after going missing (i.e., after being arrested):

Not shown in the video are the pro-government residents of Muharraq that also showed up to confront funeral-goers, as recounted in this report on Bahrain's mounting sectarian violence.

Update 4: The Washington Post reports that U.S. Embassy Bahrain has begun shifting staff housing to "safer" (i.e., more convenient) locations, as the continued clashes along al-Budaiyi' Road makes the commute to Zinj a lengthy and I'm sure infuriating one. One wonders how long until the U.S. starts considering shifting other, more important assets from Bahrain...

And following the rousing success of Operation: Manama Tsunami back in October, the February 14 folks are supposed to launch a new operation today dubbed "Bahrain Fist." A summary here mentions the release on YouTube of several "martyrdom-type" videos as well as another showing some sort of a marble-shooting BB-gun (!) created by some entrepreneurial villagers in Barbar.

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