A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Distraction Factor

I suspect the "GCC" intervention in Bahrain — which apparently consists of about 1000 Saudi forcesa — while a direct response to the worsening of the situation yesterday, also is taking advantage of the fact that, in the wake of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disasters, the world's media attention is focused elsewhere. While most major news networks deployed heavily to the Mideast in the past few months, the big names have moved on to Japan, while those remaining in the Mideast have to also cover both sides in the Libyan war. Yemeni forces have been using greater force with the protesters as well, in part because the whole world is now occupied elsewhere.

A more disturbing thought is that the world's distraction may not be the only reason governments are cracking down harder on the protests: despite the Arab League's unprecedented support for a No-Fly Zone in Libya, beleaguered autocrats may be emulating Qadhafi on the assumption that a hard line still works. I'm not sure that it does in the long run, but it may in the short run.

The US response is going to be interesting. A lot of Bahraini opposition figures have already noted that US Defense Secretary Gates was just there on Saturday. I don't believe it's cause and effect, but many in the region may well jump to that conclusion.

1 comment:

Ralph said...

I think the timing of the intervention had to do more with the following:

(1) On Sunday, the police lost control of King Faysal Highway and the nearby streets when they tried to evict the protestors who were blocking the Bahrain Financial Harbor. Crowds rushed over from the Pearl Roundabout to assist the demonstrators.

(2) There were serious fissures opening up in the Sunni camp. The average Sunni has long felt the King and Crown Prince were weak. The King more interested in his night life than governing. This is a sentiment that goes back years

Popular Sunni preacher Abdul Latif Al Mahmood - head of the newly formed National Unity Rally -definitely not an opposition group - has called for citizens to defend themselves if the police are not available. Shortly thereafter citizen patrols began emerging in Sunni neighborhoods. With many saying "if the King won't protect us, we'll do it ourselves".

Facing a group ultimately determined to establish a republic, the King could not risk losing the support of his one group of supporters.

(3) Then there were the Saudis with concerns over their own of the unfortunate precedent Shi'ah majority rule next door might have for the Eastern Province.