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Bahrain's Sunni-Shiite Riots, the U.S. 5th Fleet, and Iran: Stoking the Unrest

Updated on March 18, 2011

Its a little country on a little island, connected to Saudi Arabia by a very long 16-mile bridge. It is ruled by the al-Khalifa family with little oil to export. On one side is Saudi Arabia, on another, Qatar, a little to the north is Iran, which is across the Persian Gulf narrows. The world's shipping lanes that carry oil to it travel these lanes through the Straits of Hormuz, part of which actually travels into Iranian water and past Iranian-held islands. Everyone in this neighborhood knows the value of this real estate: oil, shipping lanes. Everyone knows it would be easy to cause mayhem to the world's oil supply either by catastrophe, accidents or Iranian interference, even little ones, such as terrorist attacks on ships, firing anti-ship missiles at oil tankers. One such event would suddenly make oil prices climb to Mt. Everest highs and spark who knows what else.

Bahrain is home to the US 5th Fleet. We pay them millions each year to base the naval ships there to counter Iran, it is the West's police force. The US presence in Bahrain is low key because of the Sunni-Shiite population. The riots for real democracy are reaching dangerous levels because proof has been found that Iran is stoking them to some degree. But it is also because Bahrain's King has created a Saddam Hussein type situation that existed in Iraq. The rulers are Sunni and in a minority, while the general population ( a total of 600,000) is Shiite. Iran is mostly Shiite. Shiites outnumber Sunnis by 2 to 1. If you are a Shiite in Bahrain, you suffer from " in your face" discrimination daily, like slaves did in America in the 1800s. One member of the ruling family there, said: "Shiites are like carpets. They are better when they are beaten".

True. It seems the ruling powers there are following the Gadhadfi method, that is, using force from its police and Saudi Arabia's 1000 man military force (the US tried to persuade SA not to send them). Protesters are shot at close range, injured protesters both women and men, clubbed, ambulance medics beaten when they try to help. At least 5-10 have been killed. Journalists are threatened if not from America. The Sunni forces actually hunt down the Shiites and threaten or hurt them.

To outsiders, Bahrain seems like an island of a modern civilization and highly educated. A place where, when compared to Iran or Saudi Arabia, women are not subjected to religious customs and other demeaning styles. But like in South Africa years ago, one clearly sees a difference between how Sunnis live and how Shiites live. Your life as a Shiite is far different and far worse. Even American citizens who are Shiite are beaten badly if caught up in the upheaval. This happened to, a renowned surgeon from Texas, who went to help in the main Manawa hospital. He tried to save a baby during the protests and was caught , handcuffed, beaten badly, stripped and then threatened with rape as police cursed Shiites.

All this plays into Iran's stoking the flames by inciting Shiites to rebel and topple the King, secretly and covertly using Shiites in Bahrain to be their proxy (as they do in Iraq). Iran would love to see the collapse and have a leading Shiite take control (like they want in Iraq). A Shiite Bahrain would probably be Iran's best friend, would kick out the US 5th Fleet, freak out Saudi Arabia (which is Sunni) and endanger the world's oil shipping lanes. 


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 6 years ago

      Most westerners have little idea about the Sunni-Shiite issue.

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      Howard Schneider 6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great analysis Perrya. This tiny country could set the Middle East ablaze. Fear talk is always about Al-Qaeda but a Sunni-Shiite war in the midst of oil country could send the world into a deep recession or depression. We need to tread carefully here.