A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, March 14, 2011

GCC Troops Enter Bahrain; Protesters Charge "Occupation"

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) troops have moved into Bahrain to help keep order after a violent day of clashes yesterday. Other reports suggest that primarily Saudi troops are involved, in keeping with Saudi concerns over the mostly Shi‘ite protests against the Sunni government in Bahrain spreading to their own Eastern Province. While there may be a GCC fig leaf in place, I suspect we are essentially dealing with a Saudi intervention. The opposition is denouncing it as an "overt occupation," with all the negative semantic baggage the word "occupation" carries with it in the Arab world.

Unless we count Qadhafi's reliance on sub-Saharan African mercenaries in Libya, this marks the first overt cross-border intervention in the current wave of Arab protests. Last month I noted the concerns of the Saudis about events in Bahrain as a potential area of US-Saudi disagreement and friction; now we appear to have arrived at a critical moment.

It will be interesting to see the US reaction, which will require some diplomatic finesse, I suspect.

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