Headline:Saudi Troops Enter Bahrain to Help Put Down Unrest
Come with me into the Wayback Machine.
Back in the day, I worked for a company called EDS which had been founded by a guy named Ross Perot. Perot was gone in the mid-90s when I was there and got involved with what I'm about to describe to you.
There came a time when I got a call from a very senior executive at EDS to meet with a man who was coming to visit the campus north of Dallas from a place called Bahrain.
I had never heard of Bahrain.
This was way before Google. It was even before what Google was called before it was called "Google" which was - wait for it - "BackRub."
So, I ran to the corporate library and found that Bahrain is a group of islands in the Persian Gulf off the east coast of Saudi Arabia with Iran on the other side of the water. According to the CIA World Factbook it is about 3.5 times the size of the District of Columbia and (in 2011) has a population of 1.2 million of whom 20 percent are non-nationals.
I didn't know it at the time, but the ruling class of Bahrain is made up of almost exclusively Sunni Muslims while 70 percent of the residents are Shi'ites. I didn't know that at the time because at the time I didn't know there were Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.
And, in any event, I had always called them "Moslems."
Imagine if, in the United States, the ruling class were made up of one Christian sect say, Episcopalians.
To make a long story short ... I went to Bahrain and fell in love with the people.
Bahrain has been governed by the al-Khalifa family since 1783 when they kicked the Persians (now Iranians) out.
It had some oil when oil was new, but not enough to make a living at it and so it became a trading center. Movements of goods from the Middle East to Asia went through Bahrain. During the cold war, when western airlines couldn't overfly Soviet airspace, Bahrain became a refueling stop for planes from Europe heading for India and further east.
Beirut was the banking center for the Middle East but, during the civil war in Lebanon in the late 70s and 80s, the financial industry looked for a safe haven and they chose the relatively sleepy, safe, western-facing Bahrain.
Hence, the visit to EDS in 1993 by the Deputy Director of the central bank of Bahrain followed by the visit to Bahrain by the Director of Emerging Markets.
Bahrain has been a model of modernity in the region. Women were given the right to vote in 2002. The U.K. Guardian wrote: