The elephant in this case being sectarian division amongst Sunnis and Shiites.
What the Kingdom of Bahrain lacks in size, it makes up in strategic importance. Not only is it the home for the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, whose members enjoy a life of luxury true to the spirit of hospitality of desert Bedouins, nor is it practically a playground for Saudis seeking what could be mildly as possible put as “entertainment” at the end of the long, working week, but it is home for a 70% Shiite majority whose claims of oppression are countered with questions of their loyalty to the Khomeini.
The small island in its recent history has witnessed what could be likened to a bitter custody battle between a bickering divorced couple over their only child – Iran on one side, Saudi Arabia on the other. This was evident a couple of years ago where an official Iranian advisor to the Khomeini remarked that Bahrain was considered part of Iran’s sovereignty. This water-testing type of remark led to a diplomatic row and the summoning of the Iranian ambassador in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia commenting that this row will hurt regional ties, and it –seemingly- ended in true tactful Persian fashion or so-called Tuqya with an -insincere- apology and -non-heartfelt- withdrawal of the angering comments.
The Gulf Council’s tour de force of sending 1000 troops part of the Peninsula Shield Force purpose is to send a loud and clear message to all the parties involved; Iran, the US, and the revolting masses. And that message is that unrest will not be tolerated for long and will not be allowed to spread –God forbid – to the behemoth of oil output in the world; Saudi Arabia, particularly the Eastern Province home to a Shiite majority with similar claims of oppression as their Bahraini counterparts.
An irrational escalation developing to a full-fledged, outgoing war between the historical rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran is highly unlikely. But what causes the average Arab viewer glued to Al-Jazeera channel night and day, jitteriness over the events unfolding in Bahrain is the increasing likeliness of a bloody civil war scenario fought between proxies for both giant oil-producing nations on the ground of the tiny island. In other words, a second Iraq, right in the heart of the relatively calm oasis of the gulf peninsula.
Throughout history, brute force never served to contain civil unrest but will only fan the embers of blazing fury sweeping over the region. After all, protestors whose demands are not met, and who are unable to resort to peaceful means to have their voices heard find different way of venting out their pent-up anger. Despite the continuous calls for dialogue between the parties involved, no such talks took place, nor were any of the protestors’ demands met. Till then, both Iran, aided by its regional allies and proxy militias, and Saudi Arabia shakily backed by the world’s leading superpower and the wary GCC will continue to flex their muscles on the island, which will only hurt its inhabitants caught in the midst of a struggle they might or might not fully understand.
Once the Bahraini elephant is released from its cage in a state of musth -a Persian word meaning intoxicated- defined as a state where elephants go into fits of blind rage for unexplainable reasons, it will go on to destroy and level anything that dares stand in its way. That scenario – God forbid – is what is keeping everyone on the edge of their seats