The world's attention today is focused on protests in Egypt, where hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand an end to military rule, and in Syria, where protests in Hama, Homs, Idlib, and the Damascus suburbs appear to have resulted in dozens of deaths. But below the radar, thousands also demonstrated in Bahrain -- in the largest protests the island kingdom has experienced in weeks.
Mass protests in Bahrain were largely squelched in March, following the deployment of Saudi and Emirati troops to the country, so today's protest represents a surprising resurgence of the opposition movement. Some of the protesters carried tents during the march -- a sign that they intended to set up a permanent camp, recapturing the energy of the Pearl Square sit-in.
The revitalization of Bahrain's protest movement could not come at a worse time for the ruling monarchy, which is trying to get back in the international community's good graces aftersuppressing demonstrations earlier this year. Bahrain urgently wants the United States to push through a $53 million arms package -- last month, its foreign minister told FP's Josh Rogin that any delay in the deal would send the wrong signal to regional adversaries, such as Iran.
The future of the U.S. arms sale is thought to hinge on a human rights report, which is due to be released on Nov. 23. Congress and the State Department have promised to review the report's findings on allegations of torture and repression against the Bahrain government -- but will be hard-pressed to ignore the situation on the ground if the stage seems to be set for another crackdown.
If Bahrain's monarchy ignores the protests, they will likely gain momentum. If it cracks down, it risks scuttling the arms deal and fracturing its alliance with the United States. What's a king to do these days?