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The way forward

The way forward

There's an opportunity for Middle Eastern states in the unrest engulfing the region, argues this Arab News editorial. But they must do more to address the economic problems of their people.

February 21, 2011 12:24 by

After the dramatic changes in Tunisia and Egypt in less than a month, the wildfire of political and economic unrest is now raging in Libya, Yemen, Iran, Algeria and even in Morocco. But it’s Bahrain where things seem to have entered a critical phase, sparking alarm across the region.

All efforts and appeals by Bahrain’s leadership to end the protests offering “unconditional and inclusive dialogue” are yet to produce results. Thousands of jubilant protesters returned to the Pearl Square, the focal point of anti-government demonstrations over the past couple of weeks, yesterday after riot police fired teargas and shotgun rounds before withdrawing.

Understandably, Gulf Cooperation Council states have thrown their weight behind Bahrain’s leadership warning against outside meddling and foreign interference in the nation’s internal affairs.

Given Bahrain’s delicate sectarian equilibrium and the distinct possibility of outside forces trying to exploit it, GCC states have every reason to be concerned about the tiny but strategic Gulf state. The fact that Bahrain is a close US ally and home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet only adds to the complexity of the whole issue.

Meanwhile, the situation in Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya is deteriorating fast. The US-based Human Rights Watch has claimed that over 100 people have been killed in the government crackdown on the widening protests. However, as Tunisia and Egypt have demonstrated, an iron-fisted approach is the last thing we need in the affected countries right now. Patience, empathy and a greater willingness by governments concerned to understand and address people’s concerns and insecurities may be the way forward.

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