Following Algeria over the weekend, the latest country to see an escalation in rioting following the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt, is the tiny island of Bahrain, situated just off the coast of Saudi Arabia, which just happens to be home to the US Navy's 5th fleet. From the Washington Post: "Bahrain's security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets Monday at
thousands of anti-government protesters heeding calls to unite in a
major rally and bring the Arab reform wave to the Gulf for the first
time." We are currently searching to bring readers a live feed, but don't hold your breath. As noted above, this country is situated just off Saudi, and the last thing the oil exporting country needs to show is how volatile the region has suddenly become despite attempts by various emirates in the region to purchase the loyalty of their citizens.
Riot police - some firing bird shot pellets - moved against marchers in various sites to prevent a mass gathering in the capital, Manama, that organizers intended as an homage to Egypt's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular revolt that drove Hosni Mubarak from power.
Bahrain's protesters, however, claim they do not seek to overthrow the ruling monarchy but want greater political freedoms and sweeping changes in how the country is run.
Social media sites have been flooded with calls by an array of political youth groups, rights activists and others to join demonstrations later Monday, a symbolic day in Bahrain as the anniversary of the country's 2002 constitution that brought pro-democracy reforms such as an elected parliament.
But opposition groups seek deeper changes from the country's ruling dynasty, including transferring more decision-making powers to the parliament and breaking the monarchy's grip on senior government posts. Bahrain's majority Shiites - about 70 percent of the population - have long complained of systemic discrimination by the Sunni rulers.
The nation - no bigger in area than New York City - is among the most politically volatile in the Gulf. A crackdown on perceived dissidents last year touched off riots and street battles in Shiite areas.
On a highway to the capital, marchers ran for cover under a cloud of tear gas and barrage of bird shot fired by police. In the mostly Shiite village of Diraz, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to halt a march by hundreds of peaceful demonstrators waving Bahraini flags and chanting: "No Shiites, no Sunnis, only Bahrainis."
And here is why all attempts to buy the good will of your citizens, will always eventually backfire.
Bahrain's leaders have responded to the "Day of Rage" calls with concessions aimed at appeasing the protesters.
Government regulators have promised to ease state controls on the media. Last week, Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, granted each Bahraini family the equivalent of nearly $2,700. Bahrain lacks the energy riches of most other Gulf nations and cannot afford to match the generous social programs common in the region.
Next up- the people will demand more, then even more, until Bahrain will be forced to do what all other bankrupt countries do: print bonds with impunity (which they concurrently monetize).
In fact, the more we think about it, it is about time the race to the monetary bottom was joined by the Persian Gulf countries.