Bahrain Can't Blame Iran for Its Woes

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By Lisa Beyer

If there were any doubts that things were going to get nastier in Bahrain, they were dispelled when five home-made bombs went off in the heart of the capital Manama today, killing two people.

The monarchy has been trying to keep a lid on unrest sparked by the Arab Spring, going so far as to ban all demonstrations a week ago. Yet dissension has continued to bubble.

That bombings would be a next stage was presaged by the discovery, in raids on two towns in July, of five tons of explosives, some packaged into bombs containing hundreds of iron balls to produce maximum carnage.

Bahrain's Sunni rulers have blamed Shiite Iran for stirring up Bahrain's Shiites, who are a majority in the country and dominate its opposition. But a government inquiry failed to uncover evidence of Iranian meddling in the initial unrest in February 2011.

Of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility of subsequent Iranian mischief-making. Still, blaming outsiders lets the monarchy off too easily. Instead, Bahrain's rulers should seriously address the complaints of the Shiite community. Grievances include the job demotions of thousands of Shiites after the 2011 protests and gerrymandering that dilutes Shiite representation in the elected chamber of the National Assembly.

At a Nov. 7 meeting in Bahrain, foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council are expected to discuss how to cope with the tensions in Bahrain and Kuwait, where protests recently broke out. A GCC military force led by Saudi Arabia crushed the February 2011 unrest in Bahrain, leading to today's more radicalized rebellion. The convening foreign ministers would do well to consider how to open up their political systems to prevent further conflict rather than how to bottle it up.

(Lisa Beyer is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)

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-0- Nov/05/2012 23:36 GMT