Bahrain-The Pearl Revolution?

New York- The sustained uprising in the tiny Gulf Sheikhdom of Bahrain this week is very interesting to me for two reasons: the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and the unrest unfolding in Yemen have been against stale autocracies, not monarchies (an uprising against the Hashemite monarchy in Jordan is untenable for demographic reasons I won’t get into here) and the troubles in Bahrain are the first of which to affect one of the Arab states that rely almost entirely imported South Asian laborers who cannot protest. Since every revolution in the last decade must be given a title, I’m taking the liberty to call the drama in Manama “the Pearl Revolution” because, well, it’s taking place in a part of Manama called the Pearl Roundabout and the main industry before the advent of the oil industry in that region was the pearl trade which hardly exists there today.

I went to Bahrain several years ago en route to Ireland from Pakistan and thought it would make an interesting stop over, or at least I could say I’d been to one more country. Bahrain is connected to mainland Saudi Arabia by a long causeway and acts as a testosterone release valve for Saudi and Kuwaiti men who travel there on the weekends to drink booze, watch Philippine women sing cabaret tunes, carouse with hookers from Africa and Asia, and be extremely rude to Indian hotel workers without fear of consequences. Bahrain is often cited as one of the world’s rare Shia majority nation-states who like Hussein-ruled Iraq, are oppressed by a Sunni leader, king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

The White House will be watching Bahrain very carefully, much more so than say Tunisia, because Bahrain acts as a giant American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf and I have no doubt the monarchy there is telling their American allies that any kind of opening in the political system there will lead the expansion of Iranian influence in the Gulf. For many Sunni Arab regimes (and Salafi militants) Shia always = Iranian.

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