Author: Kenneth Katzman, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
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 been 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. 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.