"After experiencing serious unrest during the late 1990s, Bahrain undertook several steps to enhance the inclusion of the Shiite majority in governance. However, the Sunni-led government's efforts to maintain its tight grip on power stirred new unrest among Bahraini Shiites in advance of October 23, 2010, parliamentary elections. That election, no matter the outcome, would not have produced a new executive, but the Shiite population was hoping that winning a majority in the elected lower house could give it greater authority with which to challenge the ruling Al Khalifa family. In advance of the elections, the government launched a wave of arrests intended to try to discredit some of the hardline Shiite leadership as tools of Iran. The crackdown contributed to increasing Shiite popular protests in advance of the elections. The main Shiite faction, an Islamist group called 'Wifaq' (Accord), won one more seat than it did in the 2006 election but still ended up short of a majority (18 out of the 40 seats) in the elected lower house. […] Bahrain is generally poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies, in large part because Bahrain has largely run out of crude oil reserves. It has tried to compensate through diversification, particularly in the banking sector and some manufacturing. In September 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA); legislation implementing it was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169)."
CRS Report for Congress, 95-1013