Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Bahraini Sunnis, Watch Out!"—Or Else You Might Actually Get What You Want

I don't normally devote an entire post to a single news story or article, but this one deserves it--and moreover follows directly from my previous post regarding the centrality of Bahrain's Sunnis in dictating the direction of the political crisis. Writing in Al-Watan, Faysal al-Shaykh warns, "Bahraini Sunnis, watch out!" (Arabic here):

It has become crystal clear that what happened in Bahrain [i..e, the uprising] bears no relation to the Arab Spring movements. It was a sectarian and discriminatory movement led by deeply sectarian political forces that do not recognize any other components in society. [But now t]hey want to show the world that their alleged revolution is supported by the sweeping majority of all Bahrainis from all sects and that the change they are demanding is a popular one. ...

Therefore, their current tactic is based on winning the sympathy of Sunnis by dwelling on common grievances which consist in discontent with living conditions, the rampant corruption in state sectors, the housing problem and rising prices. Their objective is to drive Sunnis to discredit the measures that seek to protect Bahrain according to comprehensive and wider criteria and not narrow and petty considerations that could have cost the country a lot hadn’t it been for the proper and clever treatment of the situation so as to show the international community what is really happening inside Bahrain.
Those bastards! Attempting to "win[] the sympathy of Sunnis" by noting that in fact all Bahrainis share similar political and economic grievances? By noting "rampant corruption," "the housing problem," and "[poor] living conditions?" How could they?

He continues,
This is a key point about which loyal Bahrainis have to be vigilant. After the failure of their coup attempt, those people changed their strategy. Instead of continuing to focus their confrontation between them and the state, notably its security bodies, they are now trying to pull another element in the conflict with the state. Today, they are exploiting the feelings and emotional mood of Sunnis by showing that any action or initiative made by the state tends to neglect the loyal citizens’ rights and ignore their demands.
Wait, what!? What's the opposition doing now?--demonstrating that "the state tends to neglect [Sunnis'] rights and ignore their demands?" Those sons-a-bitches!

And a final warning:
We have to beware of falling in the quagmire of emotions and impetuous reactions, otherwise it would us a regime capable of securing the pillars of a civil state against the ambitions of those who seek to establish an entity controlled by a single category whose propensities cause a lot of distress to those with different sectarian or political affiliations and you can take the northern state an example for the hellish existence led by political opponents.
Indeed, watch out, Bahraini Sunnis, or else you might actually make progress toward realizing your longstanding political demands. And isn't that exactly what the terrorist Ziono-American-Hizballah alliance wants you to do?

Yeah, I guess it is.

Update: The New York Times reports on the lingering tensions at the University of Bahrain one year after the battle of the camel.

Update 2: A popular thread on the pro-government Sunni forum is calling for a televised debate involving Sunnis and Shi'i activists, pro- and anti-government. And in a related poll, 70% of forum-goers support the idea. Maybe another indication that at least some Sunnis are coming around to the idea that the opposition may not be the devil after all? All I have to say is: "Bahraini Sunnis, watch out!"

Update 3: The always-readable Simon Henderson reports to Foreign Policy from on deck the Fifth Fleet's USS Abraham Lincoln, currently on anti-Iran duty in the Persian Gulf.

Update 4: Bahrain police reform you can believe in.

Update 5: The Saudi worldview, via al-Hayat.

Update 6: How about that police reform? A protester (and citizen journalist) killed by plainclothes security forces shooting live rounds from a civilian car. (The Interior Ministry is appealing for "witnesses," presumably some that would confirm that the bullet came from a car with an Iranian plate.) It will be ironic if the state's own thugs prove responsible for its losing the Formula 1 race, now only weeks away.


  1. Justin - I think a growing number of people are coming to realize that Bahrain's current impasse is actually a failure of leadership. No one is leading and no one has the charisma and backbone to lead or even take concrete steps to resolve the situation. In whatever form that resolution comes about. In addition, there must be a third way here, it isnt the way of the government and it certinaly isnt the way of Al Wefaq. Both have proved to be moronic and incompetent beyond belief, nevermind Wefaqis and their Iran hugging activities or their widely perceived deficiency for being Shia.

    In fact, maybe your next piece of analysis should not be a question of Shia or Sunni, and the two implied camps they represent. But what about the secular, westernized, educated class that drives Bahrain's largest GDP contributor the financial sector, the merchant trade, and other segments of business. Leadership in quality and in presence is available there, and is most likely to offer the only realistic and pragmatic alternative to the two entrenched positions of the jokers on either side. It is time that Bahrainis look for a new dimension to the political equation - secularist, professionals, technocrats to run government. The royals have failed and have not strayed far from the fat, lazy and bedouin stereotype they share with their GCC brethern given their inability to get past old age practices, and the wefaqis are extremists that have alienated moderates through their savage and uncultured behaviour on the streets.

  2. @Sal: Transcending narrow religious categories in the service of pressing for political reform is a worthy objective, no doubt. I suppose my feeling is that the state has been successful in promoting a structural divide of this nature and that, while it is happy to allow citizens to expend their energy fighting each other, is always on the look-out for cross-societal mobilization of the sort you describe. At least in the short term, then, the only viable means of exerting effective political pressure on the state is I think the simultaneous coordination (if not cooperation) of existing religious-based groups acting in their independent but ultimately shared interests. Of course, what you end up with as a result may not look much better than the disease; but I think that the wait for a revolution led by a diverse and educated professional class will be a long one.

  3. I am surprised that a respected writer like Justin really take Al Shaykh's contribution to the regime propaganda machine seriously. I, and most Bahrainis who have the slightest of sense, look at Alshayek's writings, as well as those of his colleagues at Al Watan, notably Al Benkhali, Aqeel Swar and Swasan Al Shaer, as no more than laughable stuff, something like reading comic books or children fair stories. Those people, over the past 12 months, have lost creditablity, dignity and respect for ever.


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