The Battle for Bahrain

Change may be coming to much of the Middle East. But, with Bahrain’s social fault lines too wide to bridge, the regime willing to resort to brutal violence to crush any uprising, and the international community prepared to look the other way, the protesters in Manama should be prepared for defeat.

MANAMA - The fervor for change that inspired revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt is now rocking Bahrain. But the uprising in Manama differs from the mass protests that turned out longtime rulers in North Africa. Indeed, sectarian fault lines, together with the security forces’ complete fealty to the monarchy, seriously diminish the likelihood of peaceful regime change.

Whereas Tunisia and Egypt are relatively homogeneous countries – Sunni Muslims constitute more than 90% of their inhabitants – Bahrain’s Sunnis, including the royal family and the country’s political and economic elite, comprise only about one-third of the population. The rest are Shia. Each of these groups is making different, if not contradictory, demands.

The Shia focus on political reforms that would reflect their majority status. Aggrieved Sunnis, however, want socio-economic changes, such as affordable housing. And, whereas Egyptian protesters of all types found common ground in insisting that President Hosni Mubarak resign, Bahrainis will find it almost impossible to agree on a rallying cry.

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