Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chess in the Gulf

The Gulf Emirates, or Gulf States, are a string of tiny, but very wealthy countries bordering Saudi Arabia along the Persian Gulf.  Among them, Bahrain is home to the American Sixth fleet, while Qatar is home to the U.S. Central Command’s Forward Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Center.

The situation in both these countries is getting short shrift in the U.S. media for several reasons, the most important of which is their significance.

While the G8 mulls over what to do about a defiant Greece, Saudi Arabia proposes a merger to the Bahraini monarchy, and a French website yesterday reported that Kuwait had uncovered plans for a coup d’etat hatched by Qatar.  All during the months long unrest in Bahrain we’ve been told that Washington does not want to get involved in its internal affairs.

Why should we get involved when we can get another local client state to do the dirty work?  Saudi Arabia is beginning to look more and more like Israel - a tale waging our dog in exchange for big bones.

The American press fails to emphasize the crucial difference between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims: the first invariably represent the 1%, while the second try to defend the 99% - usually without success - which is what motivated the Iranian revolution.

The replacement of a Sunni Shah by a Shi’a theocracy resulted in Iran being ostracized by its Gulf neighbors.  These states are ruled by Sunnis, and have relatively small Shi’a minorities, except for Bahrain, whose native population is about 70% Shi’a.  In 1957, Iran claimed that Bahrain constituted an Iranian province.  The matter was laid to rest in 1970 by a Bahraini referendum in favor of independence.

But as preparations move ahead for possible war between the West and Iran, Saudi Arabia’s move to keep Bahrain resolutely in the Sunni camp, via union with its weak rulers, comes as no surprise. At a time of high anti-Iranian sentiment, the long-term objective of securing all of Middle Eastern oil for the West implies keeping the Middle East firmly in the hands of Sunni rulers.

And if you're wondering why Qatar may have tried to oust the rulers of Kuwait, it's still only a rumor. Remember Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991, setting off the first Gulf War.

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