18 February 2011

All About Pearl Roundabout

All About Pearl Roundabout, by Pepe Escobar (Asia Times, 18 February 2011)

Bahrain is a tiny archipelago of 1.2 million people separated from Saudi Arabia by a causeway - 65% of Bahrain is Shi'ite. But the al-Khalifa dynasty in power is Sunni. Most Shi‘ites are poor, marginalized and discriminated against - a rural proletariat. And they have been squeezed further as a mass of "imported" Sunnis - upwards of 50,000 from southern Pakistan, Balochistan, Jordan and Yemen - have been naturalized. Add to it a classic divide and rule strategy - local workforce pitted against foreign workforce; 54% of the population are guest workers, nearly half of these from southwest India.

King Hamad, in power since 2002 and a graduate of Cambridge University, is a wily ruler. There's an elected parliament, women do vote, and some political prisoners have been released. That's what Washington calls "stability". But the king is terrified to death of the Shi'ite majority; no wonder virtually everyone in the Ministry of Defense and the police is an "imported" Sunni.

Bahrain does not float in oil like Abu Dhabi, or gas like Qatar. But the development model was definitely demented neo-liberal Dubai - oil fueling real estate speculation. Winners: the al-Khalifa family and selected cronies. Losers: first and foremost, Shi'ites. Then there were the aftershocks of the 2008 financial crisis. The government cut subsidies of food and fuel - while the agents and minions of global elites continued to enrich themselves. People were further enraged. To top it off, the US 5th Fleet - a self-described cop on the beat - is berthed in Bahrain.
Link: All About Pearl Roundabout