Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 03/2013

The Precarious Ally: Bahrain's Impasse and U.S. Policy

Frederic Wehrey

February 2013

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Bahrain is wracked by simmering violence and social divisions, and the government appears unwilling to enact substantial political reforms. The three main Bahraini political forces—the Shia opposition, Sunni Islamists, and the ruling Sunni Al Khalifa family—are paralyzed by internal fissures with more militant idealists overtaking pragmatists. This is a crucial test of the United States’ ability to balance the need for political reform with long-standing strategic interests and military partnerships.