Bahrain royal family ‘brings in back-up’: Saudi troops enter country to put down protests
Saudi Arabia has moved decisively to bolster Bahrain’s embattled royal family, sending military forces across the causeway linking the two kingdoms after violent weekend pro-democracy protests by Shia demonstrators all but overwhelmed police.
+Be sure to also check out Juan Cole’s post today about the repression of the protests in Bahrain -PR+
Although the deployment on Monday was at Bahrain’s request and came under the guise of the Gulf Co-operation Council, whose other members also sent troops, it marked another stage in Saudi Arabia’s reluctant emergence as the key regional policeman, at a time when the Arab world faces unprecedented turmoil.
Confirming local media reports, Nabeel al-Hamer, a former Bahrain information minister, said the reinforcements were already in place. “Forces from the Gulf Co-operation Council have arrived in Bahrain to maintain order and security,” he said.
“GCC forces will arrive in Bahrain today to take part in maintaining law and order,” the Gulf Daily News reported. “Their mission will be limited to protecting vital facilities, such as oil, electricity and water installations, and financial and banking facilities.”
The deployment followed clashes in Bahrain on Sunday that injured dozens of people in what was one of the most violent demonstrations since troops killed seven protesters last month.
Responding to demands for more democracy and an end to sectarian discrimination, Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, has promised national dialogue, enhanced powers for parliament, electoral reform, and a nationwide referendum on any new deal.
But opponents, including the largest Shia party, Wefaq, remain sceptical. Wefaq said today it had held talks with the prince about a national dialogue. But it deplored the GCC intervention, reportedly saying a deployment of Saudi troops would be an occupation and amount to a declaration of war.
Anticipating further trouble, Britain has advised against all travel to Bahrain and warned British nationals to stay at home until further notice.