In this timely book, completed before the current outbreak of unrest in Bahrain that has formed part of the Arab Spring, Laurence Louer explains, the background of the Bahraini conflict in the context of the wider issue of Shiism as a political force in the Arab Middle East, amongst other issues relating to the role of Shiite Islamist movements in regional politics. Her study shows how Bahrain's troubles are a phenomenon based on local perceptions of injustice rather than on the foreign policy of Shiite Iran. More generally, the book shows that, though Iran's Islamic Revolution had an electrifying effect on Shiite movements in Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, local political imperatives have in the end been the crucial factor in the direction they have taken. In addition, the overwhelming influence of the Shiite clerical institution has been diminished by the rise to prominence of lay activists within the Shiite movements across the Middle East and the emergence of Shiite anti-clericalism. This book contributes to dispelling the myth of the determining power of Iran in the politics of Iraq, Bahrain and other Arab states with significant Shiite populations.
Laurence Louer is Research Fellow at CERI/SciencesPo in Paris. She has served as a permanent consultant for the Policy Planning Department of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (CAP ) since 2004 and as co-editor-in-chief of Critique internationale since 2006. Her research focuses on the politics of identity and ethnicity in the Middle East. She is the author of two other Hurst titles: Transnational Shia Politics: Political and Religious Networks in the Gulf (2008) and To Be An Arab In Israel (2007).