Did Bahrain opposition squander democracy chance?

By Andrew Hammond

MANAMA | Tue May 31, 2011 12:27pm EDT

(Reuters) – As martial law comes to an end in the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain this week, opposition activists are wondering whether they threw away what might have been the first real chance for democracy in the Gulf Arab region.

Shortly after young Bahrainis, inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, converged on a roundabout in early February, the government offered dialogue with opposition parties on political reforms. But the talks failed to get off the ground. Continue reading Did Bahrain opposition squander democracy chance?

Bahrain Shi’ite leader says backs royal family

By Andrew Hammond

MANAMA | Sun May 29, 2011 1:54pm EDT

(Reuters) – The leader of Bahrain’s main Shi’ite opposition party said on Sunday his goal was to help bring political reform, rejecting accusations of taking orders from Iran or seeking to install Shi’ite religious rule.

Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the opposition group Wefaq, said his party supported the Al Khalifa family as rulers and wanted to help the government with constitutional reforms. Continue reading Bahrain Shi’ite leader says backs royal family

Bahrain – “a hi-tech device” : Part I

I met AbdulLatif Al Mahmoud, the one-time opposition figure who emerged with the National Unity Rally after the protest movement was underway in Bahrain. The Rally was suddenly the government’s answer to the protest movement and the mass opposition movement Wefaq, which was depicted more and more as a sectarian movement aimed against Sunnis. Sunnis and true patriots joined the Rally, the official thinking is. Here’s the first part of what he said (highlights from Part II – Wefaq dragged its feet in talks cos  it was waiting for the Mahdi to come). Enjoy… Continue reading Bahrain – “a hi-tech device” : Part I

The Obama speech: Why did he bother?

The Big Speech was rather a non-event from the perspective of most people in the region, I reckon. Obama and his administration were behind the curve when the uprisings broke out. The uprisings were troubling for them because 1. (like the Iranian Revolution in 1979) they didn’t see it coming 2. the uprisings were an entirely local affair, trumping the assumption for years that democracy would only come from outside via war (like Iraq) or US pressure (post-Iraq war Bush years until Hamas won Palestinian elections) 3. as such, the uprisings have been outside US control and have the potential produce outcomes that challenge US policy in the region. That policy is pretty straightforward in its general outlines: make the Arabs and Iran accept Israel and peace with Israel on Israeli terms, challenge Iran and other forces opposed to the terms of the Pax Americana, and ensure that oil fields in Iraq and the Gulf stay in friendly hands. Continue reading The Obama speech: Why did he bother?

Bahrain media play role in tension after protests

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Thu May 5, 2011 2:18pm IST

(Reuters) – Bahraini media have played a central role in a crackdown on Shi’ite Muslims following the suppression of pro-democracy protests that threatened the Sunni monarchy’s grip on power, analysts say.

Since the crackdown began in March, the pro-government media have depicted the protesters as violent, driven by Shi’ite sectarian designs to disenfranchise Sunni Muslims and encouraged by Shi’ite power Iran, the bete noire of Gulf Arab rulers. Continue reading Bahrain media play role in tension after protests