TODAY'S QUESTION: Should the U.S. remain allies with Bahrain's monarchy?

Friday, February 18, 2011 | 10:30 a.m. CST

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak bailed President Barack Obama's administration out of a tough decision last Friday.

With Mubarak's resignation — after nearly three weeks of pro-democracy protests — Obama no longer had to decide whether to ally the U.S. with either Egyptian protesters or the ousted ruler.

Now, the Obama administration faces a similar decision, this time in Bahrain. The small island nation off the northeastern coast of Saudi Arabia hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

But there are several differences between the Egyptian protests and the ongoing protests in Bahrain that might factor into Obama's decision.

In Egypt, the protests revolved mainly around democracy versus dictatorship; in Bahrain, it's democracy versus monarchy. In Bahrain, a religious twist might affect Obama's decision. A majority of the Bahraini population practice Shiite Islam and have complained of Sunni discrimination by the rulers.

Meanwhile, a majority of the government is Sunni Muslim. The constitutional hereditary monarch led by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and his family is Sunni as well. Roughly 70 percent of the 500,000 citizens in the nation's capital, Manama, claim Islam as their religion. Obama must factor in, too, that Bahrain's neighbor, Saudi Arabia, also has a Sunni-ruling family.

The Bahraini protesters' epicenter lies in Manama's Pearl Square. Peaceful protests turned violent earlier this week. While thousands of protesters slept in the square, Bahraini police opened fire on the protesters. Hundreds of wounded were taken to Salmaniya Medical Complex, a nearby hospital. At least five have died.

Obama has not yet released a statement. Khalifa's support of antiterrorism and the push back of Iranian influence in the area could factor into the U.S.'s decision. Iran, largely influenced by the Shiite sect of Islam, lies to the northeast of Bahrain. This puts Bahrain in the middle of potential controversy: the Sunni-led Saudi Arabia as its ally, versus Iran, which supports the majority Shiite population.

Should the U.S. remain allied with the Bahraini monarchy?

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Paul Allaire February 18, 2011 | 1:14 p.m.

But how do we stage a war to promote the spread of democracy without the support of the local dictators?

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