The moment on Friday when Bahraini security forces fired on a demonstration and injured protesters, including the head of the opposition Al Wefaq society
Given its current verses, at some point the regime song about supposed enemies at its gates will become the noise of absurdity. In the past week, a 4-year old boy has been shot and blinded by security forces, whilst an 11-year old was put on trial for protesting. And, on Friday, the "seditious threat" became the police attack on marchers, including opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, who were armed with flowers.
Western observers often tempers their criticism of police brutality with evidence of opposition provocation in the form of Molotov cocktails; this time, video plainly shows the peaceful intent of the protest. Moreover, as the largest legal opposition party, Salman's Al Wefaq has the ear of the US State Department, who will likely view this development with concern, fear that it could lead to the society's disengagement from the reform process.
The recent US tolerance of the regime's more repressive actions has been based upon a belief that "reformers" within the Al-Khalifa family --- chiefly the Crown Prince, with the Foreign Minister in tow --- are at loggerheads with "hardliners". Increasingly, not least with the recent confirmation of prison sentences of some doctors and nurses, this narrative has been challenged.
The attack on Ali Salman will by spun by the regime as a consequence of his presence on an "illegal" protest, after Al Wefaq was denied a permit to demonstrate. For the so-called "hardliners", this will be more than enough for a defence --- it will also be a reasonable justification for an attack. Their supporters' voices will likely be the chorus falsely linking Al Wefaq to Iran and Shia fundamentalism.
This time the tune may be flat, not only to those who long ago lost faith in the regime but also to US officials. They will be spending the weekend wondering whether they can salvage their strategy of gentle diplomacy to force some minor reforms or whether if it is finally time to challenge the intransigence of Bahrain's leaders.