The writer began by talking about the situation in the region in general, and said that after two years from the beginning of the Arab revolutions, the Middle East has become more polarized than it was before. But he said that the division is no longer between Democrats and dictators, but politics in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya has become a battle between secular and Islamic forces; while in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and the Gulf states, it’s between the Sunnis and the Shiites.
The common denominator in the region, as the author says, is nothing. Even when all parties are committed to democracy, as is the case in Egypt, the political movements are seeking to destroy its competitors more than seeking to satisfy the people’s need to compromise and assimilate.
From outside the region, the world is asking for dialogues and negotiations. Pressure has been put on the Syrian opposition (mostly Sunni) to dialogue with the regime of Bashar al-Assad (Shiite Alawi). And Islamic governments in Egypt and Tunisia face the demands of an agreement with the secular opponents. But so far, most initiatives were dishonest and ineffective.
All this explains the importance of what happened in Bahrain last week with the beginning of a national dialogue between the opposition and the regime. Since the beginning of the protest movement in the country two years ago, the government responded with repression and arrests of opposition leaders, and the situation looked bleak until last December, when King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa suggested a dialogue between the Sunni and Shiite parties, and then agreed on the participation of three ministers from the government, including one member of the royal family. Al Wefaq association accepted the invitation, and began holding weekly meetings between the political parties.
The author argues that the chances for a successful agreement are not great, but it does have a few aspects that did not happen in Syria or Egypt. Bahrain did not suffer from the same shedding of blood like other Arab revolutions, and its good relationship with Washington and the presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, allows the United States an extent of influence.
As Diehl explains it, Bahrain has the advantage of having some moderates in the government positions on both sides, such as the Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who seems open to taking steps constituent towards democracy required to satisfy the opposition, and on the other side there is the leader of al Wefaq, Khalil Marzouk, who traveled to Washington last week to clarify the party's position.