Bahrain, January 24, 2012
Feb. 1, 2012
BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press
REEM KHALIFA, Associated Press
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — It’s usually well after midnight before Bahrain takes a breather.
The thud of riot police stun grenades trails off, the stinging tear gas mist is carried away and the protest chants against the Gulf kingdom’s rulers go
quiet until the next day. Then the cycle of unrest resumes in one of the longest-running — and perhaps most diplomatically complex — chapters of
the Middle East uprisings.
“Egypt, Tunisia, Libya,” demonstrators now shout during running battles with security forces. “Bahrain’s leaders are next.”
A year ago this month, Bahrain’s majority Shiites took inspiration from the Arab Spring to sharpen long-standing grievances against the Sunni
monarchy, accused by Shiites of relegating them to second-class status in the Western-allied nation. Within days of the first protest march, Bahrain
was sliding into a crisis that would bring more than two months of martial law, more than 40 deaths, hundreds of arrests and ongoing clashes so
disruptive that the U.S. Embassy last month relocated workers into safe haven neighborhoods.
But the troubles also reach far beyond the tiny flame-shaped island off the Saudi coast. The past year has turned Bahrain into a crossroads for every
major showdown in the region.
Drawn into the mix is Saudi Arabia as protector of Bahrain’s Sunni dynasty. Archrival Iran is an angry bystander at the fierce crackdowns on fellow
Shiites. And the U.S. is Bahrain’s conflicted partner. Continue reading