The price of 'traditional values'

Writing in the Crossroads Arabia bog, John Burgess discusses the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain and concludes:

Once again, the Middle East demonstrates its problem with missed opportunities. Had Bahrain not treated its majority Shi’ite population less well than its Sunni minority, there would be no cause for unrest. 

The same applies to Saudi Arabia. Had the governments bothered to distinguish the different Shi’ite sects, rather than lumping them into one entity, they might have found willing partners. Had they not continued to demonise Shi’ism itself, they would not be facing sectarian as well as political issues today. Had they not put off reforming their political and social systems, all in the name of ‘traditional values’, they would not be faced with demands for those reforms to be made now, with no further delay. 

Had they seen the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 as a warning sign rather than an immediate threat, those governments might have started making changes 20 years ago instead of being confronted with angry mobs.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 16 March 2011.