"Protests that erupted in Bahrain following the uprising that overthrew Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011, demonstrate that Shiite grievances over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by relatively limited efforts to include the Shiite majority in governance. Most Sunnis in Bahrain believe the Shiite majority will be satisfied with nothing less than outright rule. [...] Possibly because of concern that a rise to power of the Shiite opposition could jeopardize the extensive U.S. military cooperation with Bahrain, the Obama Administration has not called for a change of the Al Khalifa regime and continues to meet regime leaders at high levels, although it has criticized governmental use of force against, and widescale arrests of, peaceful protesters and activists. There is a perception in the United States and in the Bahraini government that Iran, seeks to take advantage of Shiite unrest in Bahrain to bring a friendly regime to power and reduce U.S. influence in the Persian Gulf. In exchange for a tacit U.S. security guarantee against Iran and other regional powers, Bahrain has provided key support for U.S. interests by hosting U.S. naval headquarters for the Gulf for over 60 years and by providing facilities and small numbers of personnel for U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. [...] On regional issues such as the Arab- Israeli dispute, Bahrain has tended to defer to Saudi Arabia or other powers to take the lead in formulating proposals or representing the position of the Persian Gulf states, collectively. Fueling Shiite unrest is the fact that Bahrain, having largely run out of crude oil reserves, is poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies. [...] The unrest in 2011 has further strained Bahrain's economy."
CRS Report for Congress, 95-1013