Saudi troops enter Bahrain to prop up government

posted at 11:36 am on March 14, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

First, the good news.  Despite fears that the unrest sweeping through the Arab world could destabilize Saudi Arabia and threaten oil supplies to the West, the Saudis have not yet seen the need to mobilize their security forces to protect their own government.  The bad news?  They’ve mobilized their security forces to protect Bahrain’s instead:

Saudi Arabian troops entered Bahrain on Monday as part of a military force from Gulf states called in to deal with a month of political unrest in the island kingdom.

Bahrain’s government called in forces from its Sunni neighbors to put down unrest after protesters overwhelmed police and blocked roads in a resurgence of mass protests seen last month.

Nabeel al-Hamer, a former information minister and adviser to the royal court, said on his Twitter feed these troops were already on the island, a key U.S. ally and headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Saudi officials declined comment.

Bahrain formally requested the assistance of the Gulf Cooperation Council, under whose aegis the Saudis landed in Bahrain today.  The troops will “maintain order and security,” which in this case means putting an end to weeks of demonstrations and unrest mainly from Bahrain’s Shi’ites, who by some estimates outnumber Sunnis 2-1 but who have little power in the constitutional monarchy.  Bahrain is one of the smallest nations in the world, with only 1.2 million people, with as many as half of those not native to the island but recent immigrants.  Despite its small population, its diversified economy makes it a relative powerhouse, although still dwarfed by the emirates in the region.

This will put a new wrinkle in the American reaction to the unrest.  Bahrain has a constitutional monarchy, as noted above, with a more liberal political environment than Saudi Arabia.  Both, however, are American allies; Bahrain has a free-trade agreement with the US.  Women have the right to vote and to seek education, which is much different than the Saudis.  The people have demonstrated peacefully for the most part in the Pearl Roundabout in the capital of Manama, but government forces used live ammunition to attempt to drive them out on at least two occasions last month.  They claim to want a republic based on representative democracy, exactly as protesters in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia demanded — and which the US endorsed in those instances, to vacillating and varying degrees.

Now that one US ally has more or less invaded another, Grenada-style, at the request of a monarchy that has fired on its own people to maintain its power, what will Barack Obama do?  The Saudis clearly see the threat in Bahrain as a potential destabilizing force in their own country as well as fearing a growth of Shi’ite power in the region with the takeover of Bahrain.  Will Obama tell the Saudis to stand down and let the people of Bahrain settle their own accounts despite their probably-legitimate fears, or will he side with the Saudis for the status quo while the rest of the Arab world gets turned upside down?  Frankly, there aren’t a lot of great options here.


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Will Obama tell the Saudis to stand down and let the people of Bahrain settle their own accounts despite their probably-legitimate fears, or will he side with the Saudis for the status quo while the rest of the Arab world gets turned upside down?

“Present.”

Wethal on March 14, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Dictators propping up dictators……that’s how it should be. Now if they’d go do something about K’daffy.

cartooner on March 14, 2011 at 11:40 AM

He’ll call for civility and peaceful dialogue.

mikeyboss on March 14, 2011 at 11:41 AM

In the words of Michael Bay:
Sh’t just got real!

abobo on March 14, 2011 at 11:42 AM

Looks like about a 6 foot putt, doesn’t it? Slight downhill roll?

a capella on March 14, 2011 at 11:43 AM

“Meltdown” might best be used to describe the WH staff, and boss. Iraq, Afghanistan, Australia flood and NZ quake relief, Japan, Somali pirates, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, the Saudis, Iran cooking in the background, gas prices rising, stocks getting tossed around, unemployment lost at sea.

Yeah, ‘meltdown’. These clowns can’t even organize a decent presser let alone all that.

Limerick on March 14, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Grenada-style, at the request of a monarchy that has fired on its own people to maintain its power, what will Barack Obama do?

throw a party?
sink a putt?
point a finger?
be clear ’bout something?

??

ted c on March 14, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Barack Obama, getting his golf handicap down while showing his other handicaps clearly.

ajacksonian on March 14, 2011 at 11:48 AM

What are we going to do, it’s not like we’re allowed to drill for oil in our own land.

Daemonocracy on March 14, 2011 at 11:49 AM

You forgot the middle option — the one he’s using in Libya, which is to talk loudly and carry a 3 inch stick.

unclesmrgol on March 14, 2011 at 11:52 AM

You forgot the middle option — the one he’s using in Libya, which is to talk loudly and carry a 3 inch stick. iron.

unclesmrgol on March 14, 2011 at 11:52 AM

FTFY

VegasRick on March 14, 2011 at 11:54 AM

As long as The Won doesn’t have to make a decision, everything is sweet.

Cindy Munford on March 14, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Not a surprise, IMHO.

The violent security reaction in Bahrain to the protests a few weeks back was quietly mentioned as being due to a group outside of the Bahrain government. This implied it was the Saudis directing the response.

Now that the “days of rage” have seemingly fizzled in Saudi proper, they can afford to send backup to Bahrain to put down the large Shi’ite population that would threaten Saudi if Bahrain were to become an Iranian puppet state a la Lebanon.

teke184 on March 14, 2011 at 11:58 AM

OF COURSE the Saudis are going to prop up Bahrain. If Bahrain falls to the Shi’ia’s, there won’t be any place in the immediate vicinity for them and the Kuwaiti’s to drink and whore around in on weekends.

rotorhead on March 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM

a capella on March 14, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Breaks left late.

JeffWeimer on March 14, 2011 at 12:01 PM

throw a party?
sink a putt?
point a finger?
be clear ’bout something?

??

ted c on March 14, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Put it on his priority list
Promise not to rest until the situation is resolved.

kringeesmom on March 14, 2011 at 12:01 PM

JeffWeimer on March 14, 2011 at 12:01 PM

I mean breaks left early.

JeffWeimer on March 14, 2011 at 12:02 PM

Looks like about a 6 foot putt, doesn’t it? Slight downhill roll?

a capella on March 14, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Ding! Ding! Ding! Threadwinner!

Tim Zank on March 14, 2011 at 12:03 PM

The troops will “maintain order and security,” which in this case means putting an end to weeks of demonstrations and unrest mainly from Bahrain’s Shi’ites, who by some estimates outnumber Sunnis 2-1 but who have little power in the constitutional monarchy.

I’d be concerned about the fallout between the Sunni and Shia. Iran may try to defend their religious kin via Hezbollah surrogates, etc., and they would have a great chance at taking the country if the population is 2 to 1 in the Shia’s favor.

KickandSwimMom on March 14, 2011 at 12:04 PM

This widely unacknowledged global Sunni-Shia civil war is going to be a pain in the world’s butt for decades to come, especially as long as the Saudis have money to lose.

albo on March 14, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Saudi troops are part of a multi-national force. Bahrain is part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, so using terms like “invaded” is interesting, as is the fact that only Saudi troops are being called out.

Christien on March 14, 2011 at 12:12 PM

I bet Mitch Daniels nor Barry Soetero can even find Bahrain on a map.

SouthernGent on March 14, 2011 at 12:14 PM

al-Monroe doctrine?

Ward Cleaver on March 14, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Obama will do nothing, most likely.

OT: Media Malpractice is streaming on Netflix now. I’ve never seen it, but it has been great so far.

Mord on March 14, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Sunni vs. Shia

Excellent!!

pseudonominus on March 14, 2011 at 12:20 PM

This widely unacknowledged global Sunni-Shia civil war is going to be a pain in the world’s butt for decades to come, especially as long as the Saudis have money to lose.

albo on March 14, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Having them fight each other is better, then them fight to fight us. Or at least they will have less resources to fight us.

Oil Can on March 14, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Will Obama tell the Saudis to stand down and let the people of Bahrain settle their own accounts despite their probably-legitimate fears, or will he side with the Saudis for the status quo while the rest of the Arab world gets turned upside down?

“Fore!”

Mason on March 14, 2011 at 12:30 PM

Having them fight each other is better, then them fight to fight us. Or at least they will have less resources to fight us.

Yeah, but their battleground tends to have most of the world’s oil.

So we all get economically screwed while they slap-fight over which line of muhammed’s family gets to make the rules about their religion.

albo on March 14, 2011 at 12:35 PM

al-Monroe doctrine?

Ward Cleaver on March 14, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Doctrine? From this administration?

More like Wheel of (mis)Fortune.

karl9000 on March 14, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Teh Sacred Saudis (keepers of teh Precious ((no, not Mecca and Medina)) are just one rung below America in magnificence. Their balls gleaming from western attentions, how could they do wrong? They hold the key to getting across town for the 5 for $5 Slurry Burgers at Arbys. Say nothing, stay on your knees and keep bowing.

BL@KBIRD on March 14, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Obama will vote ‘present’ on this one too.

michaelo on March 14, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Wait a sec… are you saying that one Sunni Monarchy is propping up another Sunni Monarchy? Now I wonder just why they would do that… its not like they have anything in common, is it?

ajacksonian on March 14, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Bahrain is one of the smallest nations in the world, with only 1.2 million people, with as many as half of those not native to the island but recent immigrants.

Do ya think we could borrow those Saudis for a little of our own “border enforcement” when Bahrain gets through with ‘em?

Hey. Just askin’.

BigAlSouth on March 14, 2011 at 1:41 PM

Here’s hoping the royal family gets paraded through the streets and then Ceausecu’d.

Dave Rywall on March 14, 2011 at 2:00 PM

I don’t see a problem with this at all. The Saudis were invited. The Sunnis are being the sh*t disturbers.

Vince on March 14, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Vince on March 14, 2011 at 2:04 PM

Sorry, that should be the Sh’ites are the sh*t disturbers.

Vince on March 14, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Sorry, that should be the Sh’ites are the sh*t disturbers.

Vince on March 14, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Funny thing about Islam.

The orthodox Islam is Sunni making up 80-90%.

It is also the home to Salafism/Wahhabism which is the dominant religion in Saudi Arabia because the original Wahhabi-Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab-made a pact with the original leader of the tribe of Saud-Muhammad ibn Saud-basically saying “If you spread my teachings I’ll help you conquer all of Arabia [modern Saudi Arabia and parts of what are today Turkey]“. So the deal was done in 1740ish and now most of the Saudi population is screwed.

The rest of Islamic followers are 10-20% mixed between:

Shi’a (the largest non-Sunni group) and other smaller sects.

SgtSVJones on March 14, 2011 at 4:22 PM