Bahrain Protests Resume With A Vengeance As Interior Ministry Says "Social Fabric" In Peril, Sets Stage For Another Crude Spike
As Gulf stock markets celebrate the lack of Days of Rage in Saudi Arabia on Friday, Bahrain is again reminding that not every country can buy the undying love of its citizens. Per the AP, "thousands of anti-government demonstrators cut off Bahrain's financial center and drove back police trying to push them from the capital's central square - shaking the tiny island kingdom Sunday with the most disruptive protests since calls more freedom erupted a month ago." As a reminder, in February, Bahrain was the location of some of the most graphic atrocities against protesters. Since then, a swift surge in pressure from Saudi to moderate tensions resulted in an uneasy "ceasefire" although that now appears to have ended. "Demonstrators also clashed with security forces and government
supporters on the campus of the main university in the Gulf country, the
home of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet." And as we pointed out before, should the Bahrain situation reach melting point, religious tensions across the area are sure to flare up: "The clashes fueled fears that Bahrain's political crisis could be
stumbling toward open sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, who
account for 70 percent of the nation's 525,000 people."Add to this resumption of violence the fact that there was another round of protests in Saudi Arabia in front of the Interior Ministry on Sunday, and the "good" news from Friday are now long forgotten.
In some neighborhoods, vigilantes set up checkpoints to try to keep outsiders from entering. Bahrain's interior ministry warned Saturday that the "social fabric" of the nation was in peril.
A day after visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged quick progress toward reform, thousands of protesters gathered before dawn to block King Faisal Highway, a four-lane expressway leading to Bahrain's main financial district in downtown Manama, causing huge traffic chaos during morning rush hour and preventing many from reaching their offices on the first day of the work week.
"No one was able to go to work today. Thugs and protesters were blocking the highway," complained Sawsan Mohammed, 30, who works in the financial district. "I am upset that Bahrain no longer a stable place."
Security forces dispersed about 350 protesters "by using tear gas," the government said. But traffic was clogged until late morning and many drivers sent messages of rage and frustration to social media sites.
"I blame the protesters for what's happened in Bahrain today," said Dana Nasser, 25, who was caught in the traffic chaos and never made it to her office.
About two miles (three kilometers) away, police at the same time moved in on Pearl Square, site of a monthlong occupation by members of Bahrain's Shiite majority calling for an elected government and equality with Bahrain's Sunnis.
Many protesters in recent days have pressed their demands further to call for the ouster of the Sunni dynasty that has held power for more than two centuries.
Witnesses said security forces surrounded the protests' tent compound, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the activists in the largest effort to clear the protesters since a deadly crackdown last month that left four dead.
At Bahrain University, Shiite demonstrators and government supporters held competing protests that descended into violence when plainclothes pro-government backers and security forces forced students who had been blocking the campus main gate to seek refuge in classrooms and lecture halls, said Layla al-Arab, an employee at the Arts Collage.
Two protesters sustained serious head injures and hundreds looked for medical help, mostly with breathing problems from tear gas, hospital officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The Gulf kingdom holds particular importance to Washington as the host of the main American military counterweight to Iran's efforts to expand its armed forces and reach into the Gulf.
We believe all these developments are very bullish for oil. While Japanese demand destruction was the prevailing topic on Friday, this has been now flushed out, and with reduced nuclear production capacity, oil will have to step in as an alterantive: as Goldman pointed out on Friday, "The downside pressure on crude prices is likely a near-term effect only. In the medium-to-longer term, once refineries are operational, but with nuclear generation likely still disrupted, the net effect is to the upside for crude prices Today’s earthquake will dramatically impact both supply and demand across the commodity complex. Specifically, in addition to the extensive damage to residential and commercial areas, 12.5 GW of nuclear power generation capacity, 26% of total available capacity and 935 kb/d of refining capacity has been shut down." This means that any interim drop in demand will have to be compensated with a surge in demand down the line. Whether this means a spike in contango, or just a resumption of front contract prices higher, shall be made all to clear when electronic trading opens shortly.