The late Fred Halliday, a keen observer of the laboratory of Middle East politics, once at the tender age of 28 penned an impressive book titled Arabia Without Sultan, in mid-1970s. Years later, Halliday, who was a friend of this author once told me that he no longer subscribed to a bulk of his analysis in that book - that was written from a Marxian perspective and vested undue hope in the left-nationalist movements 'from the blow to topple the western-backed sultanist regimes in the oil region of Persian Gulf. Still, Halliday clung to his historical materialist view that the narrow elites of those oil sheikhdoms and their fragmentary legitimisation due to the profound social stratifications and unjust hierarchies and exclusionary politics were bound to experience significant jolts sooner or later and that it was simply a matter of time before the winds of change traversed the semi-closed waters of Persian Gulf and reached them too in the contemporary context of 'post-cold war era. Nearly 40 years later, Hallidays astute predictions appear to be somewhat exonerated by the prospects of an Arabia without Sultanism that is a shade different from the type of wholesale regime change foreseen by him, for in both the Persian Gulf region and the wider Arab world we are witnessing the dawn of a new era where the volcanic rupture of mass movements for democracy, as in Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain, may culminate less in outright regime change and more in incremental, albeit significant, democratisation, understood as a process of institutional change portending the wresting away of concentrated power in the monarchical hands and into the representative hands of assemblies, councils, etc., altogether featuring a rapid metamorphosis, or said otherwise reinventing, of those regimes along inclusionary and participatory lines. Enough hand-picked and rubber-stamped consultative councils or assemblies, and limited and exclusionary elections that defy the elementary meaning of true elections with genuine impact on the reified and antiquated status quo aptly perpetuated by the pretorian guards and foreign powers. The Arab streets everywhere are now teeming with popular demands for real change, and in the case of Arabias sultans this means the end of business as usual mandating drastic measures to make the necessary adjustments that may be painful to the ruling families and their system of patronage keenly cultivated throughout their political systems, yet inevitable if they want to prevent a massive revolution from the below. Thus, the cabinet changes and shuffling of government personalities, witnessed nowadays in several Arab monarchies, go hand in hand with the reluctant nods from the top to the popular demands for accountability, anti-corruption and nepotism, independence and democracy (within limits). After decades of development without liberalisation, the stage is now set to close the gap and sail through the turbulent channels of change that dictate the abrogation of big chunks of monarchical power and privilege in favour of 'peoples power. Spelling doom for the future of dynastic Sultanism, the current trend is toward a new political narrative that indicates the acidic mixture of democratic institutions, such as effective, representative parliaments and an independent judiciary, with the relics of the past, above all the monarchies. The irony of conservative monarchies, forced into the uncomfortable position of initiating self-reform as a result of intensifying pressures from the below, is incomprehensible save through the intricate lenses of democratisation in tune with the intricacies of local customs and traditions. In the new Arabia without Sultanism the sultans can survive only by being the grave diggers of their own sultanist power and authority, that is nowadays the focus of popular anger seeking a more diffuse and participatory political system. Whether or not the co-habitation remains temporary depends on multiple factors, chiefly the balance of forces and the ability of rulers to reinvent themselves as stakeholders in the movement for change, rather than as simply the targets of those changes. In the case of Bahrain, where the embattled ruler has put the crown prince in charge of mapping a new course of action to appease the revolting population, now squarely in possession of the Pearl Square in Manama, this would mean power-sharing with the hitherto disenfranchised Shia majority who yearn for citizen input and equal rights. The Sunni-led order, backed by Saudi Arabia and US power, is no longer tenable and nothing can prevent the winds of change that drift in the direction of a future coalition of Sunnis and Shias running the government and controlling its various branches including its legislative and judicial branches. Without doubt, Bahrains foreign behaviour and its present allegiances to US power will not remain immune from the important domestic changes gripping the country, no matter what the degree of USs unhappiness over these developments ringing chaos and insecurity for USs vested interests in the region. A corresponding diminishing role and influence of US power in Bahrain is inserted in the scripts for change, albeit in a subtle way that will likely become more pronounced in the future as the internal dynamics of change shows is foreign ramifications. The US may end up keeping its naval headquarters and bases in Bahrain, but will likely come under increased pressure and scrutiny that will, in turn, put certain limits on the conduct of US military power, e.g., the US will no longer be able to take for granted that Bahrain will be a passive observer of any action against the neighbouring Iran. Instead, the new Bahrain may consent to continuing US military presence on the condition that it will refrain from any unilateral action against Iran and or any other regional player. This would clearly represent a net loss for the hitherto unfettered US military movement and power projection in the region, but one that the US may have to bite the bullet and accept, as still a better alternative than pushing the status quo ante to a reluctant population to no avail. The end-game may be not just the decline but the evaporation of US, and altogether western, hegemony in the region, but the intermediate future bespeaks of a mixed narrative that is wrought with the tensions of an odd coupling, the strange bedfellows of monarchy and democracy. Middle East Online