“I believe that a democratic system inherently guarantees long-term stability and allows achieving cooperation between democracies,” said Ali Salman, secretary-general of the Wefaq National Islamic Society.
“If this region sees the emergence of a democratic order, I think there will be real stability in the medium- and long-term. There would be no need for any [foreign] forces to be present to guarantee the flow of oil.”
Bahrain, which has hosted the Navy’s 5th Fleet since the mid-1990s, has frustrated the Obama administration, which has sought to preserve its alliance with the Sunni royal family while supporting the democratic hopes of the mostly Shiite opposition that has taken to the streets since February.
On Wednesday, hundreds of demonstrators made their boldest attempt in months to reclaim control of a central square in the capital, Manama, which was the symbolic hub of the protest movement after it began, the Associated Press reported.
Riot police used buses to block roads and flooded streets with tear gas to drive back the marchers before dawn Thursday.
Bahraini officials have claimed that Mr. Salman and other Shiite opposition leaders have ties to the Iranian regime. Sunni politicians say that during a meeting in March, as a Saudi-led force prepared to enter Bahrain, Mr. Salman threatened to ask Iran to help the opposition. Wefaq leaders say the remark was taken out of context.
But he refrained from criticizing Iran directly or comparing its violent suppression of the protests that followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2009 re-election to the Bahraini government’s crackdown.
“I think the majority of Iranians accepted Ahmadinejad,” Mr. Salman said, adding that he prefers the “more open” policies of the Iranian president’s predecessor, Mohammad Khatami.
“The people of Iran, I think they choose an Islamic republic … I must respect the Iranian people’s [choice],” he said. “Any nation has the right to choose their system of government. …What we are seeking is a civil state that respects the norms of human rights.
“We believe it must be a democratic system where the people have the choice to refuse Al-Wefaq if Al-Wefaq is not successful enough,” Mr. Salman said. “If the people [choose] the communist party, I have to accept it.”View Entire Story
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Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
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