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Touring Bahrain

12:52 PM, Apr 1, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
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Even if they do not like it, everyone here understands why the Obama administration gave a free pass to the Bahraini regime when it invited in the GCC force. The Americans are not going to cross the Saudis at this very delicate moment in the region; and so Manama used the Saudis’ special relationship with the U.S. as cover to use force to put down the uprising. Nonetheless, around these offices and elsewhere, others warn that it is Washington’s blind eye to their Bahraini allies’ abuses that may eventually open a large window for the Iranians to operate here.

And yet many also believe that the Iran will do no good in Bahrain, since Tehran sees the Shia largely as pawns to be used against their Saudi adversaries, as well as against Washington. For Iran, says the independent Lebanese Shia activist Lokman Slim back in Beirut, the investment is small. “All they need is a good preacher, and a Husseineya, or any meeting point where Shia can gather, cry over Hussein and curse Sunnis, from Abu Bakr to the Saud and Khalifa families. The Iranians don’t need to send arms. Back in the 90s, the Shia in Bahrain took those small butane canisters used for kitchen stoves and set them off with bic lighters.”

That would be something: the Baharna chasing America’s blue-water navy out of the Persian Gulf with items found in any Arab household—remarkable, and not unlike kidnapping the Ka’ba, which cost the Abbasids dearly in tribute as well as prestige. How could the Abbasids present themselves as the defenders of Islam if they could not protect the black stone? The Qarmatians believed that history keeps repeating itself; in a sense, the Shia don’t really believe in the past but that history is always present. 

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