A Minnesota-Bahrain connection

  • Article by: JOHN RASH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 17, 2011 - 7:45 PM

Trade delegation heads home

John Rash

John Rash

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The latest Middle East hot spot has a curious Minnesota connection.

The Star Tribune Editorial Board was scheduled to meet Thursday with Shaikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al Khalifa, head of the Bahrain Economic Development Board.

He also planned to meet with Minnesota civic and corporate leaders in a bid to strengthen ties between Bahrain and Minnesota companies.

But his delegation was called back to Bahrain earlier this week after peaceful protests broke out in Manama, the country's capital.

The situation has since turned violent. Reports say that the military stormed sleeping protesters, killing five and wounding hundreds.

An advance team that visited Minnesota in December sought to position Bahrain as peaceful and prosperous. They also painted it as a business-friendly, Western-oriented place that's become an international banking center.

When pressed in December about potential societal unrest in the kingdom, in which a Shia-majority population is ruled by a Sunni-monarchy, the delegation downplayed it.

But it can no longer be ignored. Many members of the military there are Sunni soldiers from other Mideast nations. Apparently, Bahrain's rulers trust them more than they do their own Shia citizens.

Now, Minnesota businesses won't be the only ones rethinking their relationship with the tiny country.

Just as it had to do with Tunisia and Egypt, the Obama administration is reassessing Americans' relationship with a repressive regime.

John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer. His column, Rash Report, appears on Saturdays.

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