Revolution Meets Reality.
The bloom comes off the Arab Spring as old regimes fight to keep power
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1 | The Gloves Come Off
The government invited troops from neighboring nations and declared a state of emergency in a bid to end weeks of protests against monarchical rule. Security forces clashed with demonstrators in the heart of the capital, Manama, leading to at least six deaths. One prominent opposition member described the crackdown as a "war of annihilation." A strict curfew appeared to have snuffed out the demonstrations for the time being.
For weeks, the protests had been peaceful, with the opposition calling for reforms leading to a constitutional monarchy. (Some groups demanded that the royal family relinquish all power.) Tensions escalated after the March 14 arrival of hundreds of soldiers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates--invited by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to help stabilize the situation. It was not clear if foreign troops were used in the crackdown.
Fueling the upheaval in the tiny island nation is a sectarian divide between the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family and the majority Shi'ite local population. Shi'ites say they suffer systematic discrimination by the state. The intervention of another Sunni dynasty--that of the Saudis--led to fears of a regional crisis: Iran, the Shi'ite power of the Middle East, angrily denounced the move.
The U.S., which uses the Manama harbor as a base for its 5th Fleet, warned citizens to avoid Bahrain. President Obama called the Kings of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, advising "maximum restraint." Days before the latest crackdown, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Bahrain's leaders and called for quicker reform. That now seems like a distant prospect.
2 | Insurgencies All Around Him, Autocrat Digs In
A provincial governor was stabbed after his bodyguards allegedly opened fire on antigovernment demonstrators who had mobbed his convoy. The incident was the latest clash between forces loyal to embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh and those calling for an immediate end to his three-decade rule. More than 30 people have died in recent weeks, with particularly intense clashes around the main university campus in the capital, Sana'a, and the port city of Aden, where protesters burned down a police station on March 14. A host of tribal and factional rebellions simmer in this fractious, impoverished nation. Critics of Saleh, a Washington ally, bridle at his regime's restrictions on political freedom and complain of rampant corruption among his officials and family members. An indication of the government's nervousness: authorities expelled several Western journalists, including TIME's Oliver Holmes. One official cited "national-security reasons."
3 | There's No Bashing Bashar