Rich Galen

Bahrain took the first step towards overturning 30 years of autocratic rule yesterday when it became the first Gulf state to hold truly democratic parliamentary elections in which women enjoyed equal voting rights with men and were allowed to contest national posts.

Unlike the overthrow of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and the attempted overthrow of a dictator in Libya the unrest in Bahrain is sectarian: Shi'ite v Sunni.

Saudi Arabia is overwhelmingly Sunni. Bahrain is overwhelmingly Shi'ite. The differnce is important.

Remember that the Thirty Years' War began in 1618 and the "Troubles" in Ireland finally ended with the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement in 1998.

You think 380 years of violence among Christians is so very different?

I am a fan of Bahrain. I understand there are inequities, but there are inequities between the residents of Beacon Hill in Boston and people who live in East Los Angeles.

Although officials are loathe to say it, I have little doubt that Iran - a Shi'ite country - is, at a minimum encouraging the unrest in Bahrain if not sending in agents provocateurs to provide guidance (if not direction), support (if not money), and people to provoke sectarian hostility (if not violence).

I have no idea how this is going to turn out, but my heart is with the Bahraini government.

I like Bahrain. I like the people. I think some of them like me.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at