How should the U.S. handle Bahrain's Sheikh Qassim's growing relationship with Iran?

In the latest Middle Eastern Outlook, Between Reform and Revolution: Sheikh Qassim, the Bahraini Shi'a, and Iran, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) scholar Ali Alfoneh examines the growing relationship between Bahrain's Shi'a leader Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Because the political stability of the small island state of Bahrain--home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet--matters to the United States, Alfoneh recommends that the U.S. should do its utmost to reconcile the rulers and the ruled in Bahrain. Defending the civil rights of the Bahraini Shi'a would to help stabilize Bahrain and the Persian Gulf region. It would also undermine Iran’s ability to exploit the sectarian conflict between the Bahraini ruling Sunni elites and the Shi’a majority.

Among Alfoneh's key points:

  • Bahrain's history is fraught with Shi'a marginalization, which, as the nation's ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran grow stronger, has fomented a radical strain in the nation's politics.
  • Political and clerical leader Sheikh Qassim's transition from moderate reformist to zealous revolutionary serves as a broader warning of the shifting tides in Bahrain.
  • The U.S. should work with the current government in Bahrain to encourage gradual reforms and civil rights for the Shi'a majority. This would ensure stability -- critical for oil transportation -- in the Persian Gulf.

 

Ali Alfoneh can be reached at ali.alfoneh@aei.org or through Alex Della Rocchetta at adr@aei.org or 202. 862.7152.

For additional help, other media inquiries, or to reserve AEI's in-house TV studio or ISDN facilities, please contact michael.pratt@aei.org or 202.862.5823.

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About the Author

 

Ali
Alfoneh
  • Ali Alfoneh's research areas include civil-military relations in Iran with a special focus on the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the Islamic Republic. Mr. Alfoneh has been a research fellow at the Institute for Strategy at the Royal Danish Defence College and has taught political economy at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

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