Monday, March 14, 2011

Gulf states send force to Bahrain following protests

I said recently the Saudi-Bahrain causeway was built with this in mind, but I didn't expect to be right so soon. This, to me, is very surprising. Would it happen if it wasn't royalty putting up a common front?

The BBC:
Troops from a number of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, have arrived in Bahrain in response to a request from the small Gulf kingdom, officials say.
A Saudi official said about 1,000 Saudi Arabian troops arrived in Bahrain early on Monday.

The troops are part of a Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) deployment, a six-nation regional grouping which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

It is believed they are intended to guard key facilities such as oil and gas installations and financial institutions.

I wonder if the "guarding" is both literal and metaphorical. Market watchers are concerned about the possibility of protests in Saudi Arabia.

Business Intelligence - Middle East / Stratfor:
Troops from the United Arab Emirates are reportedly expected to arrive March 14. Al Arabiya reported that Saudi forces have already entered Bahrain, but these claims have yet to be officially confirmed by the Bahraini regime.
The ongoing tensions are exacerbated by the split between Bahrain’s Shiite movement, which became clearer during protests on March 11. The more hard-line faction of the Shiite movement, led by the Wafa and Haq blocs, has been increasing the unrest on the streets in the hopes of stalling the talks between the Shiite Al Wefaq-led coalition’s negotiations with the regime.
...If Bahrain indeed has requested Saudi intervention this time, the implication is that the Bahraini military is not confident in its ability to contain the unrest now.

Riyadh’s decision to send forces to Manama could be taken for this reason, since wider spread of Shiite unrest from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia would aggravate the already existing protests among Saudi Arabia’s own Shiite population. Saudi military intervention in Bahrain is also not unprecedented; Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain in 1994 when Riyadh determined that Shiite unrest threatened the al-Khalifa regime.

The regional implications of the unrest in Bahrain were underscored when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Manama on March 12 and urged the Bahraini regime to implement bold reforms....

Dubai's Gulf News has a brief Reuters report on the troop deployment. Abu Dhabi's The National has picked up a more complete report from Agence France-Presse although the story is headlined Saudi troops 'enter Bahrain'.
The message seems to be, "don't try this at home".

Does this mean the GCC won't be able to help with a no-fly-zone over Libya?

Did Bahrain call in the GCC because it needed more firepower, or because needed foreign troops willing to fire because they aren't their own people? It's a scary thought, but I can't believe the GCC troops would use force unless their own lives are threatened.

Another thought -- I'm pretty that the bulk of the UAE armed forces are not Emiratis. That's partly because the work is not the kind Emiratis would accept, and partly because the rulers like it that way for a variety of reasons.

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