Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak three days earlier, began a political crisis that defies resolution.
Bahrain’s unrest demonstrates that Shiite grievances over the distribution of power and economic
opportunities were not satisfied by the efforts during 1999-2010 to increase the role of the Shiite
majority in governance; most Bahraini Shiites now say they seek a constitutional monarchy in
which governments are established by an elected parliament. Reflecting increasing polarization,
many Sunnis in Bahrain believe the Shiite majority will settle for nothing less than outright rule.
As protests escalated in March 2011, Bahrain’s government bucked U.S. advice by inviting direct
security assistance from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, declaring a state of
emergency, forcefully suppressing demonstrations, and arresting dissident leaders and proopposition
health care workers. Although the state of emergency ended on June 1, 2011, the
continued imprisonment of dissidents contributed to the resulting failure of a “national dialogue,”
held in July 2011, to reach on more than just a few political reform recommendations. Hopes for
resolution were raised by a pivotal report by a government-appointed “Independent Commission
of Inquiry” (BICI) on the unrest, released November 23, 2011, which was critical of the
government’s actions against the unrest as well as the opposition’s responses to government
proposals early in the crisis. The government, through an appointed national commission, has
begun to implement most of the BICI recommendations, but the stalemate on major political
reforms has contributed to the resumption of some renewed violent demonstrations and dashed
hopes that a complete solution is in sight.