Though as home to the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet Bahrain has considerable value to the West in and of itself, the real fear amongst many was that if the island nation’s Shi’ite majority gained steam in its demands for reforms, neighboring Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be far behind.
That fear appears to be coming to pass tonight, as the Shi’ite population of eastern Saudi Arabia is now also seeking the basic human rights that have long been denied to them. The rallies are small, so far, just a few hundred people, but as we have seen across the region, such protests can grow quickly.
Saudi Arabia has many of the same issues as the rest of the region, rising unemployment, rising food prices, and a brutal regime, and the combination of long-standing sectarian unrest could make it a prime target for another uprising.
At the same time, Saudi King Abdullah has pledged some $10.7 billion in additional spending on housing and has promised more money on social spending in an attempt to buy his way out of the crisis. Whether it will work there or not remains to be seen, but given the Bahraini King tried overt bribery to quiet the protests there and failed, it seems far from a sure thing.
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