Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
Pagination or Media Count:
After experiencing serious unrest during the late 1990s, Bahrain undertook several steps to enhance the inclusion of the Shiite majority in governance. However, the Sunni-led governments efforts to maintain its tight grip on power have stirred new unrest among Bahraini Shiites in advance of October 23, 2010, parliamentary elections. That election, no matter the outcome, would not produce a new executive, but achievement of a Shiite majority in the elected lower house could give the opposition greater authority with which to challenge the ruling Al Khalifa family. In advance of the elections, the government has launched a wave of arrests intended to try to discredit some of the hardline Shiite leadership as fomenters of violence and tools of Iran. The crackdown has perhaps contributed to increasing Shiite popular protests in advance of the elections. Underlying the unrest are Bahraini concerns that Iran is supporting Shiite opposition movements, possibly in an effort to install a Shiite led, pro-Iranian government on the island. These fears are occasionally reinforced by comments from Iranian editorialists and political leaders that Bahrain should never have become formally independent of Iran. On the other hand, Bahrains Shiite oppositionists accuse the government of inflating the Iran threat, and the contacts between Iran and the opposition, to discredit the opposition politically. At the same time, Bahrains rulers have tried to avoid inviting Iranian aggression, in part by signing energy agreements with Iran and by allowing Iranian banks and businesses to operate there. Bahrain has also sought to dissuade Bahraini journalists and officials from publicly criticizing Iran.
- Government and Political Science