"Ten years ago Bahrain forswore torture and set up a parliament, albeit with few powers. It was praised for this by Britain and America, but reforms have since stalled. Proper steps towards democracy will annoy some of the prince’s own relatives, who hold most of the high cabinet posts and much of the country’s wealth.
The government is also caught between its Western allies, who want to see democratic progress, and its Gulf neighbours, who urge caution. Saudi Arabia, with the largest population and the biggest unemployment problem, is especially troubled. Saudi pressure probably helps explain the sudden escalation of force in Bahrain last week. Indeed, the Saudi foreign minister, with four Gulf counterparts, visited Bahrain last Thursday to support its government. They warned against “foreign meddling”, usually code for Iranian interference; most of Bahrain’s protesters were Shia, but there is no evidence that they were helped by Iran. On February 23rd Bahrain’s king jetted off to Saudi Arabia for further talks about the unrest.
In Saudi Arabia itself, last week, seven men were thrown in jail for establishing a political party. This week King Saud, who is 86, returned to the country after lengthy medical treatment overseas. He offered $37 billion in new public spending to stave off unrest. Civil servants will get a pay rise; unemployed students will get grants; more housing is to be built. But as Shibley Telhami, a Middle East specialist at the Brookings Institution, has observed, Arab protesters are seeking dignity, not just bread. Saudis have been offered no more say in the way they are governed." --The Economist
BBC: "The daughter of the former Saudi oil minister, Sheikh Yamani, Dr Mai Yamani has said the economic measures announced this week by the Saudi King will not satisfy the demands of the country's young people. Dr Mai Yamani told the BBC World Service that greater political reform was urgently needed."