With the world's eyes again focused on Bahrain thanks to both a high-profile motor sports event as well as continued political strife, last week would have been a tough one in which to declare one's support for the ruling regime. Yet that is exactly what Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations did, earning him much derision on blogs and social networking sites.
On Twitter, Husain first praised Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid al-Khalifa, as "visionary" and then disparaged what he referred to in scare quotes as the "opposition," as if the Shiite Bahrainis who have been protesting for greater representation these past 15 months are some artificial construct and not 75 percent of Bahrain's population. Husain's tweets and subsequent blog post, however, seem to have been motivated by what he sees as a stark choice facing Western policymakers: Either support the regime in Bahrain or prepare to make way for an Iranian vassal state. Saudi Arabia and Iran, Husain argues, are locked in a "cold war," and the United States must decisively choose sides.
Husain is hardly the first scholar to make this argument. Former Bush administration official Michael Doran argued along similar lines in an essay for Foreign Affairs that eloquently placed the Arab Spring in its historical context. Other researchers, meanwhile, have spoken of a new "Arab cold war" along the lines Malcolm Kerr first suggested in his seminal text of the same name, which was less about the struggle between two states and more about the struggle between revolutionary and traditionalist regimes.