(Guardian) - Bahrain's ruling dynasty fears a US attack on Iran could inflame tensions with the country's restive Shia majority, reports Ian Black from Manama It is late morning in the Bahraini parliament and deputies are debating the small print of a law on reciprocal employment rights with other Gulf countries. Sheikh Ali Salman, the leader of the Islamist opposition group al-Wifaq, is making a point in elegant, classical Arabic - his white dishdasha and matching turban magnified onto a giant video screen. Shortly afterwards, the Speaker calls a break - just time for a quick fruit juice or noon prayers on thick Persian carpets. This everyday scene in Manama is unremarkable, but it is evidence of a smoothly functioning - if limited - parliamentary system in one of the most fragile regions on earth. And with a crisis looming over the nuclear ambitions of its Iranian neighbour, Bahrain's uncomfortable position on the great fault line of the Muslim world is being keenly felt.
The split is clear just from gazing down at the chamber from the visitors' gallery. Sheikh Salman and colleagues are immediately recognisable as Shia Muslims. A couple of them in black turbans are sayyids - senior religious scholars. Some are in western suits. Other MPs wear Sunni headdresses over their robes.
The official emphasis is on Bahrain as a nation. "We are Bahrainis first, opposition or not," insists the Crown Prince, the American-educated Sheikh Salman Al Khalifa.