FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Saudi Arabia Invades Bahrain

“I saw them chasing Shiites like they were hunting.”

– Rania Ali, Bahraini Sunni resident of Sitra, describing how police went after civilians seeking shelter, 16 March 2011.

The media spotlight in the Middle East is almost exclusively focused on Libya’s (apparently failed) revolution. But the region’s most consequential uprising—now sure to become a revolution itself—is in the smallest Arab country: Bahrain.

Who would have thought a tiny island nation of no more than 1.2 million people and only 530,000 citizens (at least 70 percent of whom are Shia, but ruled by a Sunni dynasty for more than 200 years) could pose such a threat to the Persian Gulf monarchies?

Separated by a mere 16-mile stretch along the King Fahd causeway from Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich, Shia-populated Eastern Province (EP), the freedom contagion sparked by Bahrainis’ demand for sweeping political and socioeconomic reforms might spread like wildfire throughout the Arabian Peninsula and jeopardize the rule of all the royal families.

Of course, those paying close attention to developments in the Gulf know that residents of Qatif and others in the EP have already held protests calling for an end to sectarian discrimination and the release of political prisoners.

Indeed, one demonstrable success usually propels another, as Tunisia’s revolution did for Egypt, and Egypt’s almost did for Libya. When it does, a disgruntled yet quiescent citizenry becomes emboldened enough to ask for what their neighbors were successful in achieving. Such behavior is not tolerated in absolute monarchies, where money is thrown at problems rather than the root causes of discontent investigated and tackled.

After a month of peaceful, non-violent sit-ins and protests largely confined to Manama’s Pearl Roundabout by unarmed Bahrainis—the very same ones who witnessed the regime’s imported security force tear through the roundabout on Feb. 17 killing seven and injuring hundreds—Saudi Arabia had had enough.

Yes, Saudi Arabia.

Reports may say that Bahrain asked Saudi troops to intervene as part of the so-called “Peninsula Shield” forces of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). That request, though, likely came after Saudi Arabia already said it was headed there.

United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates had just paid a visit to Manama on Saturday, urging the royal family to take more than just “baby steps” toward reform. Gates, however, stood firmly behind al-Khalifa rule and tellingly did not meet with opposition representatives. Instead, he chided them for their reticence to take up the Crown Prince’s offer for dialogue (which came the day after his henchmen were set loose upon those sleeping in Pearl Roundabout in February).

Despite Gates’ duplicity, he did manage to say this:

“I expressed the view that we had no evidence that suggested that Iran started any of these popular revolutions or demonstrations across the region.”

When the al-Khalifa regime offered little in the way of concessions, Bahrainis started to move beyond Pearl Roundabout and head toward the royal palace. They were beaten back by pro-government thugs carrying clubs, sticks and swords.

Thousands then paralyzed the financial district Sunday with demonstrations and roadblocks. The lucky ones were met with tear gas. Others were shot point blank.

On Monday, 1,000 Saudi troops in armored vehicles, followed by 500 hundred soldiers from the United Arab Emirates, drove into Bahrain.

“We consider that any military force or military equipment crossing the boundaries of Bahrain—from air, sea or land—an occupation and a conspiracy against the people of Bahrain … and threatens them with an undeclared war by armed troops” read the statement from a coalition of Bahrain’ seven main opposition groups.

The next day, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa declared a state of emergency and effectively put Bahrain under martial law.

It did not take long for clashes to erupt throughout Manama and the outlying Shia villages. Hundreds of wounded inundated Salmaniya and other hospitals in the capital. Ambulances ferrying the injured toward them were shot at, as were nurses and physicians working inside. The printing facilities of Bahrain’s main opposition newspaper, Al-Wasat, were ransacked by pro-government mobs, who smashed presses with pipes and axes.

The greatest violence was reserved for Wednesday. Bolstered by the presence of yet more foreign faces, Bahrain’s security forces (90 percent of whom are non-Bahraini Sunnis) cleared Pearl Square. Tanks and bulldozers rolled in, riot police shot at the encamped and helicopters hovered overhead and fired at homes. Casualties again quickly soared into the hundreds with three confirmed dead at the time of this writing—a figure sure to rise. Shia villages were completely cut off from the capital, preventing desperately needed access to medical care. Phone service was disrupted. Two hundred were reported shot in just Sitra, a village south of Manama.

Hospitals were again blocked and doctors beaten as they tended to the wounded.

Treating neurosurgeon Dr. Nabeel Hameed said, “They were all shot from close range. Yes, they do shoot to kill.”

Meanwhile, President Obama feebly pleaded for “maximum restraint.”

The protestors’ early and modest demand was for the country’s prime minister, who has been in power for 40 years, to resign. Then it was for Bahrain to transform itself into a constitutional monarchy with a freely-elected executive branch, an independent judiciary, and a representative parliament that could not be overruled by the king or his hand-picked Shura Council. A not insignificant number called for the whole monarchy to be abolished. With the presence of Saudi troops and a vicious crackdown underway, most will undoubtedly gravitate toward the latter.

One of Saudi Arabia’s pretexts for entering Bahrain was to prevent the proverbial foreign elements (re: Iran) from meddling in its internal affairs. This was dismissed by Gates and WikiLeaks cables reveal alleged Iranian interference to be an unsubstantiated claim. Indeed, the only interference has come from the GCC in general and Saudi Arabia in particular in a last-ditch effort to preserve dynastic rule.

It comes too late, for the genie is out of the bottle and it will not return. Many will continue to pay with their lives, but the days of monarchy are numbered. In the Persian Gulf, it will start with Bahrain, making it the most important revolution of all.

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent Middle East commentator.

 

 

More articles by:

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
August 22, 2019
George Ochenski
Breaking the Web of Life
Kenneth Surin
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Helter Skelter
Enrique C. Ochoa – Gilda L. Ochoa
It’s About Time for Ethnic Studies in Our K-12 Schools
Steve Early
A GI Rebellion: When Soldiers Said No to War
Clark T. Scott
Sanders And Bezos’s Shared, Debilitating, Basic Premise
Dan Corjescu
The Metaphysics of Revolution
Mark Weisbrot
Who is to Blame for Argentina’s Economic Crisis?
Howard Lisnoff
To Protect and Serve
Cesar Chelala
A Palestinian/Israeli Experiment for Peace in the Middle East
Binoy Kampmark
No Deal Chaos: the Brexit Cliff Face and Operation Yellowhammer
Josue De Luna Navarro
For True Climate Justice, Abolish ICE and CBP
Dean Baker
The NYT’s Upside Down Economics on Germany and the Euro Zone
August 21, 2019
Craig Collins
Endangered Species Act: A Failure Worth Fighting For?
Colin Todhunter
Offering Choice But Delivering Tyranny: the Corporate Capture of Agriculture
Michael Welton
That Couldn’t Be True: Restorying and Reconciliation
John Feffer
‘Slowbalization’: Is the Slowing Global Economy a Boon or Bane?
Johnny Hazard
In Protest Against Police Raping Spree, Women Burn Their Station in Mexico City.
Tom Engelhardt
2084: Orwell Revisited in the Age of Trump
Binoy Kampmark
Condescension and Climate Change: Australia and the Failure of the Pacific Islands Forum
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
The Dead Letter Office of Capitalist Imperium: a Poverty of Mundus Imaginalis 
George Wuerthner
The Forest Service Puts Ranchers Ahead of Grizzlies (and the Public Interest)
Stephen Martin
Geopolitics of Arse and Elbow, with Apologies to Schopenhauer.
Gary Lindorff
The Smiling Turtle
August 20, 2019
James Bovard
America’s Forgotten Bullshit Bombing of Serbia
Peter Bolton
Biden’s Complicity in Obama’s Toxic Legacy
James Phillips
Calm and Conflict: a Dispatch From Nicaragua
Karl Grossman
Einstein’s Atomic Regrets
Colter Louwerse
Kushner’s Threat to Palestine: An Interview with Norman Finkelstein
Nyla Ali Khan
Jammu and Kashmir: the Legitimacy of Article 370
Dean Baker
The Mythology of the Stock Market
Daniel Warner
Is Hong Kong Important? For Whom?
Frederick B. Mills
Monroeism is the Other Side of Jim Crow, the Side Facing South
Binoy Kampmark
God, Guns and Video Games
John Kendall Hawkins
Toni Morrison: Beloved or Belovéd?
Martin Billheimer
A Clerk’s Guide to the Unspectacular, 1914
Elliot Sperber
On the 10-Year Treasury Bonds 
August 19, 2019
John Davis
The Isle of White: a Tale of the Have-Lots Versus the Have-Nots
John O'Kane
Supreme Nihilism: the El Paso Shooter’s Manifesto
Robert Fisk
If Chinese Tanks Take Hong Kong, Who’ll be Surprised?
Ipek S. Burnett
White Terror: Toni Morrison on the Construct of Racism
Arshad Khan
India’s Mangled Economy
Howard Lisnoff
The Proud Boys Take Over the Streets of Portland, Oregon
Steven Krichbaum
Put an End to the Endless War Inflicted Upon Our National Forests
Cal Winslow
A Brief History of Harlan County, USA
Jim Goodman
Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue is Just Part of a Loathsome Administration
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail