Friday, February 18, 2011

The Stakes in Bahrain

Graham Fuller's NYT op-ed provides a succinct overview of what's at stake in Bahrain -  a small island that punches way above its weight in terms of its impact on US strategic considerations: The US Fifth Fleet is based there, and as Fuller notes, that is by no means secure if the regime goes down.  Fuller notes toward the end:
Washington is now faced again with another hard choice — the legacy of shortsighted decisions made over decades: Continue to go with local repressive regimes out of a misguided sense of “American interests”? Hold on to unpopular military bases at all costs — thereby deepening local anger and perhaps giving Iran ultimately a greater voice in events?

Or should it quietly drop support for this repressive regime, allow events to take their course and accept that long-overdue change is coming? How long can we hold on to another ugly status quo? It’s really about how bad the change will get the longer we wait.

But as he also noted earlier, the last thing the Saudis want is to see a Shia-backed revolt take wing in Bahrain, because it will lift the Shii minority who dominate the oil-rich region of Saudi Arabia along the Gulf.

Real dilemma for Obama-Clinton.  Backing a more representative system in Bahrain means dissing the Saudis - as well as a propaganda lift for the Shia-dominated regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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