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CRS — Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Service)

The uprising against Bahrain’s Al Khalifa royal family that began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, amidst other regional uprisings, has not toppled Bahrain’s regime or achieved the goals of the mostly Shiite opposition to establish a constitutional monarchy. Demonstrations have continued, although smaller and less frequent since mid-2013, as Bahrain’s Shiites seek to bring pressure to bear on the Sunni-dominated government to increase Shiite political influence and rights. The government has arrested and sought to intimidate Shiite leaders while asserting that the opposition is radicalizing, using bombings and other violent tactics against security officials. The crisis has demonstrated that the grievances of the Shiite majority over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by the modest reforms during 1999-2010.

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FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world

November 23, 2013 Comments off

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world
Source: Thompson Reuters

Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.

Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.

+ Complete poll results

New Report: Energy Conservation Key Security Goal for Gulf

August 21, 2013 Comments off

New Report: Energy Conservation Key Security Goal for Gulf
Source: Chatham House

The systemic waste of oil and gas in the Gulf is eroding economic resilience to shocks and increasing security risks, including to citizens’ health. Success or failure in setting and meeting sustainable energy goals in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will have a global impact, says a new report Saving Oil and Gas in the Gulf.

The six GCC countries – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE and Bahrain – now consume more primary energy than the whole of Africa. Yet they have just one twentieth of that continent’s population. Energy intensity in the region is high and rising in contrast to other industrialized regions and is driven by systemic inefficiencies.

Almost 100% of energy in the region is produced from oil and gas without carbon dioxide abatement, and water security is increasingly dependent on energy-driven desalination. If the region’s fuel demand were to continue rising as it has over the last decade, it would double by 2024. This is a deeply undesirable prospect for both the national security of each state and the global environment.

Saving Oil and Gas in the Gulf is the first report to offer practical recommendations that address the key challenges of governance, political commitment and market incentives from a GCC-wide perspective. It draws on the results of two years of research and workshops in the region, with representatives of over 60 local institutions w ith a critical interest in and influence over domestic energy.

The report concludes that efficiency savings are urgent, achievable and will build a bridge to renewables deployment.

CRS — Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

May 1, 2013 Comments off

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

The uprising that began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, at the outbreak of the uprisings that swept several Middle Eastern leaders from power, has not come close to changing Bahrain’s regime into a constitutional monarchy. However, the mostly Shiite opposition shows no signs of ending its campaign to achieve that goal or, at the very least greatly increased political influence and rights. The crisis has demonstrated that the grievances of the Shiite majority over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by reform efforts instituted since 1999.

Even though demonstrations against the government continue, the two sides have engaged in dialogue as well. A “national dialogue” held in July 2011 reached consensus on a few modest political reforms. Hopes for resolution were raised by a pivotal report by a government-appointed “Independent Commission of Inquiry” (BICI) on the unrest, released November 23, 2011, which was critical of the government’s actions against the unrest. The government asserts it implemented most of the 26 BICI recommendations, but outside human rights groups assessed that overall implementation was modest and incomplete. In January 2013, the perception within the government and the opposition that the political system could split apart entirely caused both sides to restart that dialogue. The two sides remain far apart, but the new, ongoing dialogue could produce some additional modest reforms and potentially represent incremental progress toward a solution to the crisis.

The Obama Administration has not called for an end to the Al Khalifa regime, but it has criticized the regime’s human rights abuses, urged it to undertake further political reform, and advanced ideas to narrow government-opposition differences. The U.S. criticism has angered some Al Khalifa officials but it has also been insufficient for human rights activists who assert that the United States is downplaying regime abuses because of U.S. dependence on the security relationship with Bahrain. Bahrain has provided key support for U.S. interests—particularly the containment of Iran—by hosting U.S. naval headquarters for the Gulf for over 60 years. The United States signed a formal defense pact with Bahrain in 1991 and has designated Bahrain a “major non-NATO ally,” entitling it to sales of sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Partly to address criticism from human rights advocates and some Members of Congress, the Administration put on hold a proposed sale of armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons. However, in mid-May 2012 the Administration announced a resumption of other arms sales to Bahrain that it can potentially use to protect itself and support any military effort against Iran. Consumed by its own crisis, Bahrain has joined with but deferred to other GCC powers to resolve political crises in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

Fueling Shiite unrest is the fact that Bahrain is poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies and therefore lacks the resources to significantly improve Shiite standards of living. In 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA); legislation implementing it was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169). The unrest has further strained Bahrain’s economy.

CRS — Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

December 3, 2012 Comments off

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The uprising that began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, at the outbreak of the uprisings that swept several Middle Eastern leaders from power, began a political crisis that has defied resolution. The crisis since 2011 has been more intense than previous periods of unrest in Bahrain, and demonstrates that the grievances of the Shiite majority over the distribution of power and economic opportunities have not satisfied by reform efforts instituted since 1999. The bulk of the Shiite majority in Bahrain says it demands a constitutional monarchy in which an elected parliament produces the government, but many in the Sunni minority government of the Al Khalifa family believe the Shiites want outright rule.

In March 2011, Bahrain’s government rejected U.S. advice by inviting direct security assistance from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, declaring a state of emergency, forcefully suppressing demonstrations, and arresting dissident leaders and pro-opposition health care workers. Although the state of emergency ended on June 1, 2011, a “national dialogue” held in July 2011 reached consensus on only a few modest political reforms. Hopes for resolution were raised by a pivotal report by a government-appointed “Independent Commission of Inquiry” (BICI) on the unrest, released November 23, 2011, which was critical of the government’s actions against the unrest as well as the opposition’s dismissal of all of the government’s reform proposals. The government asserts it has implemented most of the BICI recommendations—an assertion corroborated by a national commission appointed to oversee implementation and a “follow-up committee.” However, the upholding of prison sentences for prominent dissidents and government refusal to agree to more substantial political reforms, have stoked continued frequent demonstrations. Adding to the deadlock is that neighboring Saudi Arabia, which has significant political and economic influence over the Bahraini government, is backing hardline Al Khalifa officials that oppose compromise. Some fear that the unrest could evolve into violent insurgency, a concern increased by the discovery of bombs and other weaponry in 2012. Five bombs went off in Bahrain on November 5, 2012, killing two non-Bahrainis.

The Obama Administration has not called for an end to the Al Khalifa regime’s past reforms, but it has criticized the regime’s human rights abuses, urged the regime to undertake further political reform, and advanced ideas to narrow government-opposition differences. The U.S. position on has been criticized by those who believe the United States is downplaying regime abuses because of U.S. dependence on the security relationship with the Al Khalifa regime to containing Iranian power. Bahrain has provided key support for U.S. interests by hosting U.S. naval headquarters for the Gulf for over 60 years. Beyond that facility, the United States signed a formal defense pact with Bahrain in 1991 and has designated Bahrain a “major non-NATO ally,” entitling it to sales of sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Partly to address criticism from human rights advocates and some Members of Congress, the Administration put on hold a proposed sale of armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons. However, in mid-May 2012 the Administration announced a resumption of other arms sales to Bahrain that it can potentially use to protect itself and support any military effort against Iran. Consumed by its own crisis, Bahrain has joined with but deferred to other GCC powers to resolve uprisings in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

Fueling Shiite unrest is the fact that Bahrain is poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies. In September 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA); legislation implementing it was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169). The unrest has further strained Bahrain’s economy.

The Rise of Diabetes Prevalence in the Arab Region

May 31, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Open Journal of Epidemiology
Introduction:
Arab populations have many similarities and dissimilarities. They share culture, language and religion but they are also subject to economic, political and social differences. The purpose of this study is to understand the causes of the rising trend of diabetes prevalence in order to suggest efficient actions susceptible to reduce the burden of diabetes in the Arab world.
Method:
We use principal component analysis to illustrate similarities and differences between Arab countries according to four variables: 1) the prevalence of diabetes, 2) impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 3) diabetes related deaths and 4) diabetes related expenditure per person. A linear regression is also used to study the correlation between human development index and diabetes prevalence.
Results:
Arab countries are mainly classified into three groups according to the diabetes comparative prevalence (high, medium and low) but other differences are seen in terms of diabetes-related mortality and diabetes related expenditure per person. We also investigate the correlation between the human development index (HDI) and diabetes comparative prevalence (R = 0.81).
Conclusion:
The alarming rising trend of diabetes prevalence in the Arab region constitutes a real challenge for heath decision makers. In order to alleviate the burden of diabetes, preventive strategies are needed, based essentially on sensitization for a more healthy diet with regular exercise but health authorities are also asked to provide populations with heath- care and early diagnosis to avoid the high burden caused by complications of diabetes.

CRS — Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy

May 22, 2012 Comments off

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The uprising that began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, following the revolt that overthrew Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak three days earlier, began a political crisis that defies resolution. The ongoing unrest demonstrates that the grievances of the Shiite majority over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by the efforts instituted during 1999-2010, or since the uprising began. The bulk of the Shiite majority in Bahrain says it demands a constitutional monarchy in which an elected parliament produces the government, but the Sunni minority believes the Shiites want nothing less than outright rule.

In March 2011, Bahrain’s government rejected U.S. advice by inviting direct security assistance from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, declaring a state of emergency, forcefully suppressing demonstrations, and arresting dissident leaders and pro-opposition health care workers. Although the state of emergency ended on June 1, 2011, the continued imprisonment of dissidents contributed to the resulting failure of a “national dialogue,” held in July 2011, to reach consensus on more than a few modest political reforms. Hopes for resolution were raised by a pivotal report by a government-appointed “Independent Commission of Inquiry” (BICI) on the unrest, released November 23, 2011, which was critical of the government’s actions against the unrest as well as the opposition’s responses to government proposals early in the crisis. The government asserts it has implemented many of the BICI recommendations—an assertion largely corroborated on March 20, 2012, by a national commission appointed to oversee implementation—and says it will institute the remainder. However, stalemate on more substantial political reforms has stoked continued demonstrations and dashed hopes that a solution is in sight. A proposed closer union with Saudi Arabia, announced May 14, 2012, will strengthen the Saudi ability to limit any Bahrain government compromise with the Shiites.

The Obama Administration has not called for a change of the Al Khalifa regime and has to some extent concurred with the Bahrain government view that Iran might take advantage of the Bahrain unrest, but the Administration has criticized the regime’s use of force against protesters and urged further political reform. The U.S. position on Bahrain has been criticized by those who believe the United States is downplaying regime abuses because the U.S. security relationship with the Al Khalifa regime is critical to U.S. efforts to contain Iran and secure the Persian Gulf more broadly. In exchange for a tacit security guarantee against Iran or other aggressors, Bahrain has provided key support for U.S. interests by hosting U.S. naval headquarters for the Gulf for over 60 years and by providing facilities for U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. officials are concerned that the instability in Bahrain could render U.S. use of the naval facilities untenable, but there are no moves to relocate it. Beyond the naval facility, the United States signed a formal defense pact with Bahrain in 1991 and has designated Bahrain as a “major non-NATO ally,” entitling it to sales of sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Partly to address criticism from human rights advocates and some Members of Congress, the Administration put on hold a significant proposed sale of armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons. However, in mid-May 2012 the Administration announced a resumption of sales to Bahrain of arms that it can use to protect itself against Iran and support U.S. operations in the Persian Gulf. Consumed by its own crisis, Bahrain has joined with but deferred to other GCC powers to resolve uprisings in Libya, yria, and Yemen.

Fueling Shiite unrest is the fact that Bahrain, having largely run out of crude oil reserves, is poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies. In September 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA); legislation implementing it was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169). The unrest has further strained Bahrain’s economy.

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