(MENAFN - Arab News) There is a question that is often asked: Why does not the Arab media give the same importance to the events unfolding in Bahrain as it does with the movements in the rest of the other Arab countries? This is a legitimate question. There are two responses to this question.
Firstly, what is happening in Bahrain is not a revolution and it is different from what has happened and is happening in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. Also, Bahrain differs in terms of size and influence, especially the number of victims who were killed in Bahrain compared to the number of victims killed in Libya and ever-growing number of them in Syria. These differences, among others, justify the change in approach in dealing with Bahrain.
Secondly, the reason for the lack of interest of Arab media is originally a sectarian position, as the opposition in Bahrain, which is mostly Shiite, is unlike the opposition in the other Arab countries, which is mostly or entirely Sunni. Thus, given that Sunnis are dominating the vast majority of the Arab media, this difference can account for the discrepancy in the Arab media's handling of Bahrain.
Let us agree from the beginning that professional news coverage requires dealing with all cases employing the same standard. This is not practiced by the Arab media, mostly because they are either official agencies or under the influence of officials of the state or belong to a particular party. However, there are clear differences among them. If we take the first answer, we conclude the following: What is happening in Bahrain is not a revolution.
What is happening in the country is a movement that dates back to the 1970s, more than 40 years before the Arab Spring. The Bahraini people are now sharply divided between Sunnis and Shiites, more than what they were in the past century. What does this have to do with Iran? It is difficult to say that there is a revolution while the division among the people is such sharp.
This division strengthens the saying that what happens in Bahrain has sectarian motives. This is an issue that must be addressed and the resolution of this issue is long overdue. Thirdly, the majority and the most important forces of the movement are the "Al-Wefaq bloc" which is a religious association founded on religious ideals and has a religious authority. Notwithstanding its religious background, it is calling for a civil state.
This demand is perfectly understandable if "Al-Wefaq" does not consider itself a political force, and that it was prompted to make these demands on behalf of the people and to support their rights in the state. However, this association in fact sees itself as a political force, and that it has the right to be a key player in the political process of the civil state; thus to be considered as a party in the state's legislative and executive authority.
Here comes the problematic issue: How can it be desired for the state to be civilian if the most important political force is a religious party with a religious background, without full representation of all the people, but rather only one component, regardless of the size of this component?
I encountered the same problem before the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Most people, at least inside and outside Iraq, especially in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, backed the fall of the regime. Although the Iraqi opposition at that time, especially the Shiite forces, was allied with Iran and the US and they enjoyed the popular support. People, especially the Iraqis, were tired of Saddam and his destructive policies. Yet what happened there after the fall of the regime is known to all and sundry. There is no new political system replacing that of Saddam's which creates the basis of a new Iraqi state for all Iraqis, regardless of their religious affiliation or sectarian or ethnic backgrounds.
What has been happening for the past 10 years is tragic by all accounts. It is equally bad that the Shiite forces, which got the political influence after the fall of the former regime, have made Iraq a proxy for Iran as the latter exercises influence in all political, financial and intelligence institutions of Iraq.
Those brothers chose the Iranian option because they share with them the same doctrine and they want to benefit from the influence of Iran in order to strengthen their political position inside Iraq. Maybe they viewed the issue from the perspective that the Iraqi Shiites did not benefit from Iran under the Shah, while the Sunnis benefited from the wide Arab Sunni presence in the region.
Thus, the presence of a Shiite religious state in Iran is now looking for its Shiite allies in the region, and the division of the Arab world and its weakness in the current phase, is an opportunity that should not be missed because it may never be repeated. We do not have the space here to discuss Iranian politics, and that one of its aims is to use Iraq as an advantage to it and a window for regional influence. This necessarily requires a weakened state in Iraq. This does not mean, of course, that the Iraqis, Sunnis and Shiites, accept that their country should be run with this premise. The intensity of the sectarian divide, the political instability for the past 10 years since the fall of the former regime and Iran's success in extending its influence across several bridges, all indicate that the situation in Iraq remains critical.
It cannot be expected that the region will accept the repeat of the Iraqi case in Bahrain, at whatever cost, for the simple reason that the country's small size and sharp sectarian division within it would make it an easy prey for Iran, unlike Iraq. Also, Bahrain is close to shores of Saudi Arabia, not farther than 23 km. Do the brothers in the Bahraini opposition view the subject from this angle? Since the sectarian divide is a reality on the ground everywhere now, why this division is denied in Bahrain?
The Bahraini opposition has failed to address the other side of the Bahraini people and it has also failed to address the regional concerns. They are dealing with all of this as if they do not care. This does not serve them well and it does not serve anyone well. Rather, it promotes distrust, which is what established sectarianism in the beginning. If "Al-Wefaq" is against sectarianism and I think it is, then it must address these concerns directly and announce a clear position. I have already expressed this view in some detail to one of the leaders of "Al-Wefaq" last year, and he was generous in his response on the subject.
Here, we come to the second answer. We cannot deny the presence of the sectarian factor in the position of the Arab media. Yet, this is the same standard of the Iranian media, and the media of Hezbollah, in their dealings with the events of the region on the basis of sectarianism that is clearer and more direct. Has "Al-Wefaq" taken the same position here? The Arab media deals in the same way with Syria and its Alawite president, Yemen and its Al-Zaidi president, and Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and their Sunni leaders.
However, the Iranian media is always with the Shiite forces, whether in power or out of power. The media of Hezbollah is also on the same line.
We are thus facing a situation that combines sectarianism with political interest, as well as a daring Iranian position that is unparalleled in its divisiveness. This stems from the nature of the Iranian political system, and therefore it needs sectarianism in the region. What is the position of "Al-Wefaq" in this case? Can it distinguish itself? Or will it continue to be silent about Iran's policies? Does it have the right to criticize the Saudi position, or the Egyptian, for example? Can it take a divisive position similar to Iran? When it cannot achieve any of these, it puts itself amid the sectarian game, which it complains about.