The movement of Saudi troops—likely military police from the Saudi Arabian National Guard—and a UAE police force into Bahrain gets front page coverage in the Saudi media. The stories point to the fact that this intervention is a) at the invitation of the Bahraini government, b) under the aegis of the Peninsula Shield mutual security program, and c) not there to put down insurrection, but to protect Bahrain’s infrastructure. Other GCC members are said to be sending their own contingents to Bahrain, but no specifics are given.
All of these points are true, but they also elide the root of the issue: Iran. To the Saudis, and other GCC members to varying degrees, Iran represents a near-existential threat. Centuries of enmity between Arabs and Persians, between Sunnis and Shi’as, continue to color both formal relations and popular perceptions. Iran’s history of meddling in the Gulf—which it sees as a natural part of its own sphere of influence, of course—both angers and frightens the Arab states. The size of Iran’s military and its willingness to wastefully throw that military into action (See: Iran-Iraq War) does nothing to lessen the threat. The bottom line is still that Saudi Arabia will not tolerate Bahrain’s becoming a satellite of Iran, just at the other end of a 25km causeway from its own oil facilities.
It is now being reported that a Saudi soldier has been shot and killed by a protester. This is a serious escalation in the situation on the ground. It will do nothing to encourage gentle behavior by the Saudi forces there who presumptively already have a negative view of the Shi’a.
Kingdom takes lead to help Bahrain
SIRAJ WAHAB | ARAB NEWS
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states started sending security forces on Monday to Bahrain in response to Manama’s call for military help to quell anti-government protests that have shaken the country. Bahraini opposition groups including the largest party Al-Wefaq denounced the move to invite GCC forces. But the United States, while urging Bahrain to exercise restraint, said it does not consider the entry into Bahrain of GCC security forces an invasion.
MANAMA/ALKHOBAR: Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states responded positively on Monday to Bahrain’s call for military help to quell anti-government protests that have shaken the country.
“The Saudi Cabinet has confirmed that it has answered a request by Bahrain for support,” said a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
No interference in internal affairs, says King
Saudi Gazette/Saudi Press Agency (SPA)
RIYADH: King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, reiterated Monday the Kingdom’s “absolute rejection of any interference in its internal affairs”.
Chairing the weekly Cabinet meeting Monday, King Abdullah said the Kingdom’s foreign relations were based on “the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in domestic affairs”, with rules founded on “the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah to safeguard the security, stability and peace of Saudi society from sedition and divisions”.
King Abdullah thanked Almighty Allah for “the blessings of security and stability and the strong relations between the Kingdom’s people and their leadership”.
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques cited the statement from the 118th session of the GCC Ministerial Council in reaffirming the “total rejection of GCC states of any foreign attempt to interfere in their affairs, and their determination to deal firmly with any incitement to factional sympathies, promotion of divisions between the people of member states, and threats to security”.
Peninsula Shield Forces enter Bahrain to maintain order
London/Manama, Asharq Al-Awsat- Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) security forces entered Bahrain yesterday at the request of Manama to help protect government facilities from the threat of unrest, after weeks of protests in the Gulf kingdom.
The Saudi government said it had responded to a call for help from its neighbor as Saudi-led forces from the Gulf countries’ joint Peninsula Shield Force crossed the causeway into Bahrain.
Once again, the Middle East demonstrates its problem with missed opportunities. Had Bahrain not treated its majority Shi’ite population less well than its Sunni minority, there would be no cause for unrest. The same applies to Saudi Arabia. Had the governments bothered to distinguish the different Shi’ite sects, rather than lumping them into one entity, they might have found willing partners. Had they not continued to demonize Shi’ism itself, they would not be facing sectarian as well as political issues today. Had they not put off reforming their political and social systems, all in the name of ‘traditional values’, they would not be faced with demands for those reforms to be made now, with no further delay. Had they seen the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 as a warning sign rather than an immediate threat, those governments might have started making changes 20 years ago instead of being confronted with angry mobs.