In “The Bahrain Uprising, Saudi Troops and Hussein the Martyr” Lee Smith offers insight into the situation in Bahrain:
Bahrain’s royal family has managed to paint the country’s opposition movement as a sectarian affair, involving only Shia and entirely manipulated by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The opposition says that it is not a sectarian uprising, but a political reform movement, and points to members of the country’s Sunni minority (roughly 35 percent of the population) who support their demands.
By calling it an Iranian-backed Shia rebellion, Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family meant not only to flush the Sunnis out of the opposition, but also to frighten Washington, which recognizes Tehran as a threat to vital American interests, including the Manama-based Fifth Fleet. Therefore, Bahraini Shia have been subjected to a campaign of violence and systematic harassment the last few weeks in an apparent attempt to get them to fight back so that the government will have even more leeway to crack down on the opposition.
Among other instruments, the Al Khalifa have been using checkpoints to rattle their people, where the Shia are rousted by policemen and soldiers from places like Yemen, Pakistan, and Syria. These Sunni foreigners have been given Bahraini citizenship in order to try to tilt the sectarian divide in favor of the ruling family, and see the current situation as an opportunity to heap abuse upon the Shia with sectarian slurs.
And yet my Bahraini colleague didn’t understand why were stopped this morning at a checkpoint and told to get out of the car. “Maybe,” I suggested as we were driving off, “it’s because of the two green headbands hanging from your front mirror that say, ‘Hussein the Martyr.’” Given the charged environment, it’s hardly surprising that Sunni security forces are going to be especially watchful for any signs of militant Shia tendencies—like the kind that might be indicated by apparel commemorating the greatest Shia martyr of them all, Hussein.
The fact is, to date, the violence surrounding the uprising in this small country is not coming from the Shia or, for that matter, the local Sunni community. Rather, members of the opposition here are quick to note that the only people who carry weapons in this security-conscious state are government employees…