A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bad Day in Bahrain

Reports indicate bloody clashes in Bahrain, which combined with the progress of Qadhafi forces in Libya make this a bad day for revolutionary movements.

King Hamad's declaration of a three-month state of emergency in Bahrain gives the security forces the authorization to break up demonstrations, and the Saudi military presence (now clearly Saudi National Guard troops in battalion strength) and UAE police contingent reinforce the Bahraini forces. While the Saudis did announce one Saudi soldier had been killed in Bahrain, by most accounts I've seen, the Saudi forces are not being used directly against the demonstrators (though there have been a few allegations to the contrary).

The dilemmas for US policy are considerable, but the GCC move may not prove to be a wise one for King Hamad and the Al Khalifa generally. The move further polarizes Sunni-Shi‘a tensions in the Gulf, and by internztionalizing the issue, may actually invite the kind of Iranian meddling it is allegedly forestalling. It makes the usually cautious Saudis appear adventurous, but if it exacerbates tensions in Bahrain, it cou;ld mean the Saudis will be there a long time, as a necessary prop for the throne. And so King Hamad could find his country becoming a virtual Saudi protectorate.

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