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Foreign Policy Analysis
Unrest in Bahrain: A Model Diplomacy Case Study

Unrest in Bahrain: A Model Diplomacy Case Study


Bahrain has been undergoing unrest since the Spring of 2011, when the Arab uprisings spread throughout the Middle East. It was really indigenously rooted, driven by widespread discontent by the majority Shia population, who are frustrated and feel disempowered by the ruling family, which is Sunni, and the Sunni power elite, which dominate the military and other institutions of the government. The uprising began as a spontaneous demonstration influenced by the widespread demonstrations taking place elsewhere in the Arab world, and it was a peaceful demonstration that turned violent, leading to invasion invited by the Bahraini government of the GCC forces to then help squelch the demonstrations. This led to widespread violence and, it turns out, human rights abuses. There’s clearly a strong correlation between the ethnic composition of the opposition and their grievances. The majority of those opposing the regime
and calling for greater representation are the Shia population. They’re the lower rung of the social ladder. They want a more responsive, more representative government that is accountable. The uprising increasingly took on a sectarian nature, especially after troops intervened to put down the demonstrations, and it turned violent. The demonstrators were cast as outside infiltrators rather than indigenous Bahrainis. And this has helped radicalize both the opposition and the government, and polarize both parties. Bahrain’s strategic position and geography makes it central to U.S. national interests. On the one hand it’s posited just across the straits from Iran, which poses a threat to shipping and towards stability in the region. It’s next to Saudi Arabia, a major U.S. ally but also a regional power. Even though it’s very small, the size of New York City, with a population of just over a million people, its location in the gulf as a major port, as a major base for the United States, makes it central. Bahrain is a major a U.S. ally in this regard and has been pro-Western, so it’s a key interest to the United States what takes place in Bahrain and that Bahrain remain a U.S. strategic ally.

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