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CROSSING THE CAUSEWAY March 15, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East.
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While other events have the attention of the world, Saudi Arabia sent troops to support the besieged King of Bahrain.

The opposition in Bahrain described the action as an act of war. We might recall that when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the United States and it’s allies mobilized the operation described as Desert Storm and later enforced sanctions on Iraq. I suppose that is history and in this case the troops have been invited by the dictatorship supported by the US, so it is OK. At the very least, deployment of troops under these circumstances ought to be a matter for the United Nations Security Council to confer upon.

Patrick Cockburn reports in The Independent:

Saudi armoured vehicles rolled along the 16-mile causeway linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in an unprecedented armed intervention likely to provoke a new crisis in the Gulf.

About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered the island, a Saudi official said. Witnesses said about 150 armoured vehicles and 50 other vehicles – including jeeps, buses, ambulances and water tankers – took up positions in the district of Riffa, where the royal family lives and where there is a military hospital.
The Saudi intervention is the first time that any Arab state has acted to quell protests in another since the wave of uprisings began in the region. The Bahraini government had earlier called for support from its neighbours after fighting in the streets of the capital, Manama, on Sunday, in which demonstrators routed riot police.

On Sunday morning the police attacked a small camp of pro-democracy protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets, but the raid provoked fighting in which the protesters seized control of much of Manama’s financial district. This led the ruling al-Khalifa family to request a task force from the other five members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), which also includes Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait.

The Saudi rulers are worried that unrest among the Shias of Bahrain will spread to their own Shia population in the neighbouring Eastern Province. Saudi security forces have been trying to prevent protests in the kingdom from gaining momentum.

The opposition in Bahrain, including the Shia Wefaq party, issued a statement saying: “We consider the entry of Saudi Arabia or other Gulf forces into the Kingdom of Bahrain’s air, sea or land territories a blatant occupation.” It added that Saudi intervention threatened Bahrainis “with an undeclared war by armed troops”.

So far the Saudi troops, presumed to be accompanied by smaller forces from other GCC states, have not appeared on the streets, where security remains in the hands of the police. Demonstrators have erected barricades blocking the main road leading to the financial district. Police checkpoints have sealed the road to the airport.

Patrick Cockburn is suggesting that the dispute is taking on a Sunni/Shiite demarcation following the killing of protesters by the Bahraini authorities. The Saudis are concerned that the discontent will spread across the causeway to the Shia populations on the other side. We will have to see how this interpretation holds up given the secular demonstrations in Egypt.

Others have noted that Saudi Arabia has always been the most important American ally in the region.

UPDATE:

The dictatorship (officially a monarchy) in Bahrain is using violence in an attempt to suppress the pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets. Al Jazeera reports:

At least two people are dead and hundreds injured after security forces in Bahrain drove out pro-democracy protesters from the Pearl Roundabout in the capital, Manama.

Helicopters hovered overhead as troops backed by tanks stormed the site – the focal point of weeks-long anti-government protests in the tiny kingdom – early on Wednesday, an Al Jazeera correspondent said.

Multiple explosions were heard and smoke was seen billowing over central Manama.

Our correspondent said the police backed by the military attacked the protesters from all sides and used tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd.

Protesters, intimidated by the numbers of security forces, retreated from the roundabout, he said.

Hospital sources said two protesters had been killed and hundreds of others injured in the offensive. The Reuters news agency said three policemen had also been killed.

Ali Al Aswad, a member of the opposition Wefaq party, told Al Jazeera that the government used Apache helicopters to shoot at peaceful protesters.

He said the situation was very bad and Bahrain was heading towards a disaster.

“The security forces are killing the people, we call upon UN to help us,” Aswad said.

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