Image: Protesters in Bahrain
Adam Jan  /  AFP - Getty Images
Bahraini protesters shout slogans at the funeral of Shiite Fadel Salman Matrouk on Thursday in Manama, Bahrain. Matrouk was shot dead in front of a hospital a day earlier when mourners gathered for the funeral of another protester.
By Mike Brunker Projects Team editor
msnbc.com
updated 2/17/2011 6:49:25 PM ET 2011-02-17T23:49:25

While the unrest roiling Bahrain on its surface mirrors the early stages of the revolt in Egypt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, experts say the conflict on the island nation is very different in several key respects.

Most important is the huge economic gulf that exists between Bahrain’s ruling Sunni Muslim minority and the impoverished majority Shiites who are driving the protests.

"In Egypt, you have a relatively homogenous Sunni population," said Lawrence Pintak, dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Journalism at Washington State University and a longtime CBS correspondent in the Mideast. "In Bahrain, you have the majority Shia, who are oppressed, and the minority Sunnis, who have all the money and all the power. That's a pretty volatile combination."

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The extent of the economic divide between the Sunni ruling class and the Shiite majority is shocking, said Toby Jones, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University and an editor at the Middle East Report political journal, who lived in Bahrain for several years in the mid-2000s.

"Nationally, Bahrain is a very poor country and the wealth that does get created is concentrated in the hands of the rulers and the influential," he said. "… I’ve never seen wretched poverty like I’ve seen in Bahrain."

He described visiting a Shiite village in 2003 with human rights activists and meeting a man who lived in a mud hovel with his cow.

"He had to walk around in rubber boots" because of cow dung all over the floor, he said.

Protest not purely religious
While the prospect of an ascendant Shiite influence in Bahrain is worrisome for neighboring Saudi Arabia and the West, several experts who spoke with msnbc.com on Thursday said that it is a mistake to characterize the protest movement as purely religious.

Slideshow: 2011 Bahrain uprising (on this page)

"Though the economic, political and social discrimination against the Shia is very real, the sectarian aspects of the protests should not be exaggerated, as there are progressive pro-democracy Sunnis supporting the pro-democracy movement as well," said Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco.

He said that while a radical Bahraini Shiite resistance sprang up in the wake of the Iranian revolution in 1979, it was harshly dealt with by the country’s rulers and was effectively dismantled. He sees the current Shiite protesters as having a much more moderate agenda.

Video: Kristof: 'Grim scene in Bahrain' (on this page)

"The resistance then was more violent and radical, but it never got very big and was crushed pretty thoroughly," he said. "This one is nonviolent, and appears to have much more popular support."

Jones, the Rutgers professor, agreed that the Bahraini protests are aimed at gaining access to the political system rather than igniting a revolution.

"They are not calling for a Shia Islamic state," he said. "They are calling for a democratic state in which everyone can participate."

Story: Tiny nation, big history: What you need know about Bahrain

Other differences
Other key differences between the Egyptian and Bahraini opposition movements mentioned by experts interviewed Thursday by msnbc.com:

  • The armies. While Egypt’s army is well-respected by the country’s citizens, Bahrain’s security apparatus enjoys no such popular support.

That’s in part because ranks of the Egyptian army are filled by universal conscription, meaning most Egyptians have close relatives serving in the military, said Pintak. It also had a history of staying out of domestic conflicts, leaving it to the police to deal with those considered threats to the Mubarak regime.

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The Bahraini army, on the other hand, is in large part composed of Sunni recruits from countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Jordan, who are essentially nothing more than paid mercenaries, said Jones. It also has a long history of suppressing the opposition.

"In Egypt, the army rolled in and kind of saved the day," said Jones. "There is no possibility that the Bahraini army would behave in the same way. They are completely bound up with the regime and will do its bidding, no matter what."

  • Foreign-born population. Unlike Egypt, Bahrain has a large foreign-born population — both foreign guest workers and Sunni Muslims recruited from other countries in the region to try to offset the demographic strength of Shiites.

“In the run-up to the last election, the government apparently was handing out passports to non-Bahrainis like candy,” said Pintak.

While the guest workers are likely to “lay low” during the unrest, the new Sunni immigrants will likely be key players, because of their heavy presence in the security forces, the experts said.

  • Sheer size. In Egypt, with a population of more than 80 million, according to CIA estimates, protest organizers had little difficulty attracting tens of thousands to its shows of force in the streets. In Bahrain, with a population of roughly 738,000, opposition leaders have a much smaller pool to draw from, especially if you subtract most of the 30 percent who are Sunnis, the guest workers and other foreigners, including U.S. personnel who work at the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet base on the southern end of the island.

That can work both ways, the experts say: It makes it easier for opposition leaders to engage in organizing, but it also provides the regime with the ability to “cut the head off the snake” by arresting or otherwise incapacitating a relatively small number of organizers.

  • Wealth. Bahrain is considered a relatively wealthy country, with gross domestic product per capita of $40,400 as of 2010, according to the CIA, compared to Egypt’s $6,200. But as noted previously, that wealth is concentrated in the hands of relatively few.

Similarities also seen
Despite such differences between the Egyptian and Bahraini protest movements, the experts noted numerous similarities.

Chief among them is that the Bahraini protesters “modeled their actions on the Egyptian protests,” said Jones.

Video: Egypt military wants an end to protests (on this page)

That included using social media to organize and spread their message outside the country, he said, noting that the Bahraini regime clamped down on domestic Internet traffic, the same way that the Mubarak government did.

By Wednesday, users of Bahrain’s Batelco high-speed Internet service were complaining of “service degradation.”

“The telecoms operator did not specify what caused the disruption, but many believe it is the direct action of the government,” reported the Middle Eastern blog, Bikya Masr. “…The government has not spoken to the issue.”

The Bahraini protest leaders also followed the lead of organizers in Tunisia and Egypt by "committing to civil demonstrations and nonviolence," said Jones. And most of the protesters appear to be young, echoing the generational demographics seen in those countries' uprisings, he said.

"They identified this as a turning point in the region and wanted to tap into that," he said.

But the biggest similarity between the Egypt revolt and the unrest in Bahrain is the uncomfortable position that both have put the U.S. in, since both are staunch allies in the volatile region, the experts said.

That discomfort was evident Thursday in the tempered comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the situation in Bahrain.

Clinton told reporters that she phone Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and "directly conveyed our deep concerns about the actions of the security forces" in cracking down on the protests early Thursday.

Noting that Bahrain had long been a friend and ally, she continued, "We call on restraint from the government to keep its commitment to hold accountable those who have utilized excessive force against peaceful demonstrators and we urge a return to a process that will result in real meaningful changes for the people there."

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That contrasted with her strong statement earlier in the week on the protests in Iran, when she said she wanted to "very clearly and directly support the aspirations of the people who are in the streets."

Pintak said the different shades of support for pro-democracy movements in the region can only add fuel to charges of U.S. hypocrisy.

"Hillary saying Iranians rise up and Bahrainis cool it, what’s the difference? The difference is we have a strategic interest in the Iranian government being overthrown and we have a strategic interest in stability in Bahrain because of the military base and other things," he said.

Follow Mike Brunker on Facebook or Twitter

Msnbc.com's Suzanne Choney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photos: March

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  1. Bahraini Shiites women attend the funeral of Bahiya al-Aradi, holding portraits of her, in central Manama on Monday, March 22. Aradi, 51, went missing on March 16 evening, and a car that she drove was found the day after in al-Qadam village, west of Manama, with bloodstains on the driver's seat. She was pronounced dead on March 21 after being shot in the head. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Bahraini opposition protesters carry the body of Abdulrasool al-Hajiri during his burial ceremony in Buri village, north of the capital, Manama, on Monday, March 21. Relatives accused the military of executing al-Hajiri after grabbing him at a checkpoint outside the village. Meanwhile, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa praised Saudi-led forces that he called in to help quell unprecedented unrest. (Mazen Mahdi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, right, meets with officers of the Gulf Cooperation Council's Peninsula Shield force late on March 20 in Manama. The monarch said Bahrain has foiled a "foreign plot" to target Gulf countries, in a possible reference to Iran, after security forces crushed Shiite-led unrest, the state news agency reported. (BNA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. An injured Pakistani man takes refuge at a Pakistan club in Manama on March 19. He said that he was attacked by Shiite Bahrainis in a Shiite neighborhood on March 19. According to Pakistani men, Shiites have been attacking Asian nationals, accusing them of taking away their jobs. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Young women look at welts on the body of a young man walking through the streets of Daih, a Shiite suburb of Manama, on March 19. The youth said he was returning from nearby Sanabis, another Shiite area, where he said he and several others were beaten by riot police. (Hasan Jamali / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Bahraini soldiers with the portrait of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on their armored personnel carrier are seen at a checkpoint near Pearl Square in Manama on March 19. (Sergey Ponomarev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The sisters of activist Ahmed Farhan mourn over his body in Sitra on March 18. Farhan, 29, was killed March 15 when police cracked down on opposition protesters in the town. (James Lawler Duggan / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. An unidentified man shows the bullet that was allegedly pulled from the head of killed opposition protester Ahmed Farhan before his burial on March 18. (Mazen Mahdi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Shiite mourners wrap the body of Ahmed Farhan before his funeral in Sitra on March 18. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Shiite mourners carry the coffin of Ahmed Farhan during his funeral in Sitra on March 18, as thousands of anti-regime activists defied martial law to renew their pro-democracy protests. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A Shiite woman stands in front of the national flag as she watches the funeral procession of Ahmed Farhan on March 18. (Sergey Ponomarev / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A combination of pictures show the statue in the center of Pearl Square in Manama being torn down on March 18. The authorities demolished the statue, focal point and symbol of weeks of pro-democracy protests in the Gulf island kingdom. Drills and diggers cut away at the six bases of the statue for hours, until it collapsed into a mound of rubble and steel bars. Trucks stood by to take away the debris. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. People walk past a car damaged with shotgun pellets in Sitra on March 17. (James Lawler Duggan / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. The Bahraini National Guard arrest a man who was later identified as journalist Alex Delmar-Morgan of the Wall Street Journal as he walked towards Pearl Square in Manama on March 16. Several hours later, Morgan was released. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Anti-government protestors gesture towards military vehicles near Pearl Square in Manama on March 16 after police killed at least two protesters and wounded dozens more as they assaulted a peaceful protest camp in the capital's Pearl Square, an opposition party official said. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Black smoke billows from burning tents in Pearl Square in Manama on March 16 after soldiers and riot police used tear gas and armored vehicles to drive out hundreds of anti-government protesters occupying the square. (Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Black smoke billows in Pearl Square on March 16 after a full-scale assault on the protesters occupying the square was launched at daybreak by soldiers and police. (James Lawler Duggan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces move in to Pearl Square to remove anti-government protesters on March 16. The GCC is a union comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Doctors form a human chain at Salmaniya Hospital in Manama fearing an attack by riot police on March 15. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A man from the Shiite Muslim village of Sitra, south of the Bahraini capital Manama is brought to the Salmaniya hospital late on March 15 after he was shot with pellets of buckshot, as the king imposed a state of emergency after bringing in foreign troops to help quell anti-regime protests. (James Lawler Duggan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Thousands of anti-government protesters march to the Saudi embassy in Manama on March 15, a day after a Saudi-led military force entered the country to defend its Sunni monarchy from a Shiite-led protest movement. The yellow sign center foreground reads: "The Saudi army came to protect the illegitimate government, not the aggrieved, legitimate nation" and the banner at right says: "The Saudi army's entry to Bahrain is an occupation we will never accept." (Hasan Jamali / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Female anti-government protesters gather outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Manama on Tuesday, March 15. (James Lawler Duggan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Saudi Arabian troops cross the causeway leading to Bahrain on March 14. About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain to protect government facilities, a Saudi official source said, a day after mainly Shi'ite protesters overran police and blocked roads. (Reuters TV ) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Protesters confront riot police on a flyover near the Pearl Square in Manama on March 13. Bahraini riot police fired thick clouds of tear gas and pushed back protesters who blocked a main thoroughfare leading to the Bahrain Financial Harbour, a key business district in the Gulf Arab region's banking center. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Protesters set up makeshift roadblocks in Manama on March 13. Bahraini police clashed with demonstrators trying to occupy Manama's banking center, as protests spread from a peaceful sit-in to the heart of the strategic Gulf state's business district. (James Lawler Duggan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A protester gestures in front of riot police on an overpass near Pearl roundabout in Manama on March 13. (Hasan Jamali / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Opposition protesters take cover after being fired upon by police during an opposition march on Riffa, south of the capital Manama, on March 11. Police clashed with protesters on the outskirts of Riffa after pro-government supporters were able to pass through police lines and attack the opposition march, leaving hundreds injured according to the health ministry, mainly due to tear-gas inhalation. (Mazen Mahdi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Protesters holding signs that read: "Down With Al-Khalifa" (left and right) stand in front of the U.S. embassy during a demonstration where they accused the U.S. government of supporting dictatorships, in Manama on March 7. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. A protester kisses a police officer after being told to clear the way for a female driver in Manama on March 3. The protester was blocking the road during an anti-government rally. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Anti-government protesters gesture in front of the main gate of the Interior Ministry during demonstrations in Manama on March 2. Protests in Bahrain are starting to make forays away from the central square in Manama and into different parts of the city. (Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Anti-government protesters march toward the Pearl roundabout, March 1, in the capital of Manama. Tens of thousands of Bahrainis, largely Shiites, participated in the march urging unity among Sunnis and Shiites in demanding political reform. (Hasan Jamali / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: TOPSHOTS

Bahraini Shiites women attend t
    Joseph Eid / AFP - Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (31) 2011 Bahrain uprising - March
  2. Image: Bahraini protesters sit and rest in their tent at Pearl Square in Bahraini capital of Manama
    Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters
    Slideshow (63) 2011 Bahrain uprising - February
  3. Image: Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo
    Dylan Martinez / Reuters
    Slideshow (18) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Farewell Friday
  4. Image: Protester in Tahrir Square
    Emilio Morenatti / AP
    Slideshow (61) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Week 3
  5. Image: Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters
    Amr Nabil / AP
    Slideshow (93) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Week 2
  6. Image: Mohamed ElBaradei
    Khalil Hamra / AP
    Slideshow (83) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - Week 1
  1. Image:
    Mayra Beltran / AP
    Slideshow (17) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - World reacts

Video: Egypt military wants an end to protests

  1. Closed captioning of: Egypt military wants an end to protests

    >>> ron allen live in cairo . ron, among the things that clinton said when she came out is that they are going to reprogram, that means basically transfer, $150 million in emergency aid to the transitional government , presumably to the military, to help them in this transition create some sort of democratic process . that said, and they're sending state department and military officials from washington to cairo next week, what signs do you have that the military leaders are preparing a transition that will be credible to the protest leaders?

    >> well, they've been doing what they can very quickly. there have been meetings, for example, of the committee that's been pulled together to try to rewrite, aspects and articles of the constitution, amendments to a new constitution. they've been meeting for the past couple of days and they're trying to produce a new document in the next two weeks or so. and there's been talk of a referendum in the next two months, which would be very, very quick. there have also been a number of statements that the military has made to the public on television, urging people to go back to work. and there seems to be some evidence that that advice is being followed. there were strikes across the country today, but they were smaller than in the previous days. and not really visible in the capital as much as they were. so perhaps to some extent, people are heeding that call, although it's perhaps the reality of being out of work now for several weeks, it is also hitting people. they want to go back and start earning money, because the protests here lasted so long and kept the country so idle that people are desperate to go back to start earning wages. so the government, the new government, the military is trying to do those things to get things back to "normal." but on the other hand, there was also an announcement that schools are not going to open for another week. banks are not going to open for another week. that's been delayed. and the stock market has also had a delayed opening, now sometime next week, not this week. so things are still somewhat unstable. the other thing that's happening here is that tomorrow, friday, is a day of protest again. the protesters are calling for a million people to go back to tahrir square, to keep pressure on the military leaders here. we'll see how many people they can turn out. this is the first time since the fall of the regime that there's been an attempt to put so many people back in the square. andrea?

    >> and i should point out that hillary clinton in her briefing to reporters just now after her briefing to congress said that she in her conversations with the prime minister of bahrain today called for restraint, especially tomorrow, where protests there are also scheduled. and also called for them to take action against those who committed the violence today. but, see, that seems completely counterintuitive. because the people committing the violence in bahrain were people from the government. so the u.s.' influence now in all these countries seems to be minimal.

    >> reporter: right. the united states has a very tricky role to play in all these situations. i don't want to lump them too much, but the bottom line is that for so long the united states has supported these governments in bahrain , in egypt, and elsewhere in this part of the world for whatever reason. and in yemen, for example, they are hoping that the government can remain in power there. there were some protests there today, clashes between pro and anti-government forests, some level of violence. and i should also say it's very hard to know what's really going on in many of these places because it's difficult to report and see what's really happening. so many of these governments have clamped down on journalists, clamped down on access to the country, clamped down on broadcasting images or report office these countries. so we're getting a very muddled picture, and sometimes in the case of bahrain , things happen suddenly, almost overnight. and part of that is because suddenly there's a light shining on a place where there wasn't one. so very difficult to know exactly what's happening, but tricky, tricky diplomatic situations for the united states .

    >> and another -- of course, in libya , in tripoli , where we've seen a lot of violence today, also unexpected. tell us what you know about libya before i let you go, ron.

    >> well, again, a very muddled picture. there are reports that the capital of tripoli are fairly quiet, but there are protests in other parts of the country. some of them are pro-qadhafi supporters that are out there. but there also have been a number of reports of people who have been injured in clashes, in smaller cities outside of the capital. the bottom line is that it's been two months since that young man in tripoli -- i'm sorry, young man in tunisia set himself alight and started these protests that rippled through tunisia and egypt, two months. and now we're seeing very, very different outcomes in different parts of the world and the pattern seems to be, clearly, that most countries like in bahrain and like in libya are cracking down and not letting this get out of hand too soon. andrea?

    >> ron allen in cairo , thank you very much.

Explainer: Tiny nation, big history: What you need know about Bahrain

  • As the Gulf nation reacts to days of unrest, a look at its role on the world stage

  • Geography

    Image: Satellite image of Bahrain
    Universal Images Group  /  Getty Images
    Bahrain, Middle East, Asia, True Colour Satellite Image
    Bahrain, an archipelago in the Persian Gulf, is just 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C according to the latest estimate published in the CIA's World Factbook.

    Dwarfed by neighboring nations Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, Bahrain is the 187th largest on the globe — just outranking the island of Dominica — when you sort world nations by total area (land and water areas).

    For comparison: the U.S., the 3rd largest nation in the world, boasts a total area of nearly 3,794,100 square miles while Bahrain can claim just 293 square miles as its own.

  • Demographics

    Nearly 235,108 of the nation’s 738,004 residents are non-nationals, according to a July 2010 estimate.

    A Bahraini man uses his mobile phone as
    Adam Jan  /  AFP/Getty Images
    A Bahraini man uses his mobile phone as he leaves the Al-Fateh Mosque, the biggest mosque in the Gulf monarchy that can accommodate 7000 worshippers, in Manama on September 17, 2010. AFP PHOTO/ADAM JAN (Photo credit should read ADAM JAN/AFP/Getty Images)

    A large portion of Bahrainians — about 70 percent — belong to the Shiite branch of Islam, while the ruling family is Sunni.

    According to a report by Peter Beaumont in Britain's Guardian newspaper, the sectarian divide is a "key difference" between Bahrain's protests and those in Tunisia and Egypt.

    "The capital Manama is largely Sunni, while the Shiite population has been historically concentrated in the poorer rural areas where – according to some estimates – in some villages between one third and a half of the residents are unemployed."

  • Government

    Bahrain gained its independence from Britain in 1971. Shortly thereafter, a parliament and constitution – aimed at ensuring basic rights and equality – was put forth. The legislative process was immediately marred by tension and mistrust.

    Wary of what Foreign Policy magazine referred to as the “rising authoritarianism of the ruling family,” the legislative body and monarchy clashed over transparency and a measure known as “The Security Law.”

    The decree stipulated that political prisoners – who were primarily Shiite – "could be held for up to three years without charge for anything deemed threatening to the country." When parliament balked at passing the measure in 1975, the monarchy disbanded the body and passed the law on its own.

    In the years that followed, long-running tensions between Shiite and Sunni and populations continued to simmer, until riots and the death of the king opened the door for reform in 1999.

    Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa king of Bahrain
    Scott Olson  /  AFP/Getty Images
    Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa king of Bahrain speaks to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a visit to Safryia Palace on December 12, 2008 in Malkia, Bahrain. Gates is currently on a multi-day tour of the Middle East meeting with regional commanders and troops. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Scott Olson (Photo credit should read SCOTT OLSON/AFP/Getty Images)

    King Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa’s death saw his son, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (right) rise to power, and prolong the family's grip on the power, which began in 1783.

    Attempts to soothe Shiite anger and establish harmony quickly followed, but real power, to this day, remains with the monarchy.

    By title, the nation is a constitutional monarchy, in which a sovereign ruler is guided by a constitution that spells out the monarch’s rights and responsibilities – with the king’s son, Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa waiting in the wings as the heir to the crown.

  • Resources

    Facing limited oil reserves, Bahrain has transformed itself into an international banking hub.

    A 2007 study by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia found that the nation – the smallest of the region – boasted its fastest growing economy thanks in part to an influx of foreign investors. The calendar’s turn to 2011 saw the nation’s economy deemed the “freest” in the Middle East according to a study by the Index of Economic Freedom by the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal.

    Taking advantage of its location next to OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia, Bahrain has also turned itself into a playground for Saudis, many of whom frequent the nation’s Western-style bars, hotels and beaches.

    Despite punching well above its financial weight, the nation still struggles with unemployment, especially among the young. The latest estimates put the jobless figure at 15 percent.

  • International relations

    Two U.S. Navy Vessels Collide
    U.s. Navy  /  Getty Images
    In this handout image provided by the U.S. Navy, The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) pulls into Mina Salman pier in Bahrain.(Photo by Cmdr. Jane Campbell/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)
    Little Bahrain is a pillar of the Obama administration's military framework in the region. It hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is a critical counterbalance to Iran's efforts to expand its clout in the region.

    Officials fear that a prolonged crisis opens the door for a potential flashpoint between Iran and its Arab rivals in the Gulf.

Interactive: The Egypt effect

  1. Above: Interactive The Egypt effect
  2. Timeline Recent Middle East unrest

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