Lip Service Is All the Bahraini Opposition Will Ever Get From Washington*

Cross-posted from Other Words.

The popular uprising in Bahrain shows no signs of going away.

The royal family tried crushing the revolt, importing shock troops from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. It tried jailing important figures in the opposition, such as human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who as of early May had been on hunger strike for 90 days. The island’s rulers tried quieting the opposition by promising to investigate the abuses and making minor cessions of power from the king to the parliament.

None of these strategies has worked. The opposition rejects them as cosmetic changes. The Bahraini majority is angry. It wants authoritarian rule to end, and many Bahrainis would like to see the monarchy disappear. The regime’s answers to this public outrage are birdshot and tear gas. They haven’t produced the terrible death tolls of Libya or Syria, but at least 32 people have died since February 2011.

The United States, which anchors its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, is right in the middle of this simmering crisis. For the most part, Washington is content to look the other way.

*Apologies to Elvis Costello.

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