SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Simeon Kerr Financial times reporter , wrote an article about the increase tension in Bahrain after the attack on opposition leaders and what King Hamad insisted that he will continue his plan of cracking down the protesters, with the help of occupier Saudi troops.Here the article
As the Bahraini authorities try to paint a picture of a country returning to normality after the wrenching protests of last year, events on the ground point to a different interpretation.King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa is being received at 10 Downing Street, while his son, the reform-minded crown prince, is received by Hillary Clinton in Washington, as western allies try to encourage the government’s stated intention to change its ways after the bloody crackdown on dissent.
But, despite some progress, the cycle of unrest and repression continues as this polarised society, pitting the majority Shia Muslim against the ruling minority Sunni Muslims, drifts toward a deeper sectarian conflict. Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the main opposition group al-Wefaq, said he was injured as riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to stop his pro-democracy march on Friday.
His flower-wielding demonstration, which had been banned by the authorities, marked another hardening of his moderate positioning, bringing the country’s biggest political society closer to more radical youth elements who confront the police daily.
Two weeks earlier, he warned government hardliners that the demonstrations had reached only second gear.
The government said police used “legal methods” to break up the rally, which had been deemed illegal because it would have caused “traffic congestion”.
This particular type of Bahraini road rage illustrates the gulf of understanding between the government, its supporters and the protest movement.
Demonstrators, while cowed during the brutal crackdown on dissent last year, continue to mobilise in a bid to taste again the freedoms experienced on the now-destroyed Pearl monument during the apex of the Arab spring.
There is no sign that force will damp down demands for greater representation. Nor have the king’s limited judicial, security and parliamentary reforms met popular expectations.
As Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House, the London think-tank, argues, the longer reforms are delayed, the higher the eventual costs of compromise.
For now, all signs point to a gradual escalation of the low-level conflict epitomised by the continuing cycle of unrest and repression, she says in a new paper, “Bahrain: Beyond the Impasse”.
If the political stalemate continues, however, the strategically important Gulf state risks becoming a pawn in a sectarian proxy war, enveloped by the growing friction between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran.
Increasing violence, which is already evident among youthful Shia protesters, could escalate into nationwide conflict if they turn for support to radicals in Iraq and Iran. Finding a solution to put the sectarian genie back in its bottle is therefore more pressing than ever.
Unfortunately, Ms Kinninmont’s least likely scenario is a negotiated end to the political impasse, though it remains possible with the right combination of political will and international support, she says. To do so, a grand bargain must be concluded with the opposition.
The ruling family, to sustain its longer-term rule, should share power more equally with its people, while at the same time marginalising the role of religion in public life.
Promoting equal citizenship via meritocracy could secure reluctant acceptance from a Sunni community keen to preserve the status quo.
Prejudice aside, the most common loyalist argument is that an empowered Shia majority would install a theocracy, taking its orders from foreign mullahs.
While this claim may be overstated, Ms Kinninmont suggests soothing such concerns by legislative checks on majority rule, such as proportional systems promoting coalition politics or a bicameral parliament that elects its two houses via different means.
Some of these solutions were on the table when the crown prince was negotiating with the opposition in February last year. The talks failed as Saudi Arabia led Gulf troops over the causeway.
That fact that these ideas are still seen as a viable political solution points to the mistake al-Wefaq made by failing to seize that moment.
Ms Kinninmont acknowledges that it may be too late for reform as the emboldened hardline wing of the ruling family will oppose change, instead opting for closer ties with authoritarian Saudi Arabia and channelling oil funds to the loyal population while crushing dissent.
But most Bahrainis would like to chart their own national course, free from outside interference, be it Saudi or Iranian. To do so, the royal family will have to reign, not rule.
Source : FT