Via the Guardian’s mammoth liveblog, whose updates will keep you busy for hours if you’re trying to catch up on what’s happening in Bahrain and Libya. It’s one thing to read about troops opening fire on demonstrators, it’s another to actually see it. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of either vid below, obviously, but there’s no dispute that the government’s posture towards peaceful demonstrations has taken a turn:
Soldiers fired live rounds on thousands of marching protesters in this Persian Gulf emirate, dramatically escalating the conflict in one of the world’s key energy corridors on a day when deadly clashes also mounted in Libya and Yemen…
Officials said there was uncertainty in Washington over who in Bahrain’s royal family ordered the use of increasing force against unarmed protesters.
“The situation has spiraled out of control and the good guys are not calling the shots,” said an American official in close contact with Bahrain’s ruling family.
Unrest also escalated Friday in Libya, an oil-rich North African country, and Yemen, a U.S. counterterrorism ally on the Arabian Peninsula.
I’m not sure what that boldface part could mean. Either there’s been some sort of internal coup against the king or else the Saudis, fearful of spillover across the border onto their own turf, have decided to try to kill (literally) the democracy movement before it progresses any further than Bahrain. A reporter from Time was there last night on the streets and at a local hospital to see from himself how many dead and wounded there are. (An eyewitness who tried to help an injured man told him, “It came out like a fountain, the blood.”) The Telegraph claims that protesters were being fired at from helicopters, with even paramedics forced to dodge bullets; the LA Times has photos of doctors trying to save the victims. Obama issued a perfunctory statement earlier today condemning the violence, but I doubt you’ll see any on-camera denunciations from The One unless this really, really blows up. The last thing he wants is to be squeezed into opposing the Saudis at a moment when they’re vulnerable too. But if videos like this start coming out, he might be forced. As I recall, it was the viral phenomenon of the video of Neda’s murder in Iran during the Green Revolution that put pressure on him to speak out more boldly against the regime after hesitating at first.
Qaddafi’s shooting people in Libya too, of course — 46 dead so far, according to Reuters — but there have been rumors all day that the protests there are large enough for protesters to have effectively taken control of several cities, including Benghazi (population: 670,000). According to the Guardian liveblog, support for Qaddafi has always been weak in that part of Libya, so this may well be a local phenomenon with no wider repercussions. And needless to say, if it does go national, there’ll be plenty of firing from helicopters there too. But, to quote Michael Totten, “If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.” Precisely what the Saudis are afraid of.
Two clips for you, both harrowing and the first grisly. The second was recorded a few days ago; it’s not clear if live rounds are being used in that one, but they obviously are in the first. Please observe your official content warning. Exit question: Everyone assumes that, if push comes to shove in Iran, this type of scene will start playing out there too. Will it really, thought? Read this and wonder.