Tuesday, 19 November 2019
logo
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.
        



dv-header-dday
     |      View our Twitter page at twitter.com/defenceredbox     |     
Gulf States

Stratfor, Red Alert

Reports emerged today March 14 that forces from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will enter Bahrain to help the Bahraini regime quell unrest. The report was published by Bahraini Alyam Newspaper (known for its close links with the ruling al-Khalifa family), and came one day after clashes occurred between Shiite protesters and police in the capital, Manama. Troops from United Arab Emirates are reportedly expected to arrive in Bahrain March 14. Al Arabiya reported that Saudi forces have already entered Bahrain, but these claims have yet to be officially confirmed by the Bahraini regime. The only announcement so far came from Nabil al-Hamar, the former information minister and adviser to the royal family, who has written on Twitter that the Arab forces arrived in Bahrain. An unnamed Saudi official also said on March 14 that more than 1,000 Saudi troops from the Shield of Island entered Bahrain on late March 13, al-Quds reported, citing AFP. Meanwhile, Bahraini State News Agency reported that The Independent Bloc (a parliamentary bloc of the Bahraini parliament) asked Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to enforce martial law to contain the unrest.

These reports suggest foreign intervention in Bahrain, or at least the possibility that the Bahraini military is taking over the security reins. Such moves mean the regime is getting increasingly concerned with Shiite unrest, which does not seem to be subsiding despite dialogue calls from Bahraini Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa. The ongoing unrest is exacerbated by the split between Bahrain's Shiite movement, which became clearer during protests on March 11. The more hardline faction of the Shiite movement, led by the Wafa and al-Haq blocs, has been increasing the tension on the streets in the hopes of stalling the talks between the Shiite al-Wefaq-led coalition's negotiations with the regime. Military intervention from GCC countries means the situation is increasingly untenable for the regime. The paradox the Bahraini regime faces is that it cannot contain the unrest while trying to kick off talks with al-Wefaq. Al-Wefaq finds itself in a difficult position, since it risks losing ground against hardliners if it appears too close to the regime while Shiite protesters are beaten by the police.

The Bahraini regime has used a military option before. On Feb 17, the military deployed immediately after a police crackdown in Manama's Pearl Roundabout and was able to calm down the situation for a while by encircling the area with tanks. If Bahrain indeed has called Saudi intervention this time, the implication is that the Bahraini military is not confident in its ability to contain the unrest now. Riyadh's decision to send forces to Manama could be taken to this end, since wider spread of Shiite unrest from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia would aggravate the already existing protests among Saudi Arabia's own Shiite population. Saudi military intervention in Bahrain is not unprecedented. Saudi Arabia sent troops to Bahrain in 1994 when Riyadh determined that Shiite unrest threatened the al-Khalifa regime.

Regional implications of the unrest in Bahrain became more obvious when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Manama on March 12 and urged the Bahraini regime to implement bold reforms. Gates said Iranian interference would become a greater possibility if Bahrain fails to do so. While Bahrain and Saudi Arabia seem to be coordinating to avoid that possibility, it is not without risks. Leader of hardliner al-Haq movement, Hassan Mushaima, who is believed to be increasing the Shiite unrest in Bahrain by Iranian support, said on Feb. 28 that Saudi intervention in Bahrain would give Iran the same right to intervene as well. A scenario of regional Sunni Arab forces cracking down on Shia would apply pressure on Iran to respond more overtly, but its military ability is limited and it is a very risky option given the U.S. 5th fleet is stationed in Bahrain. As of this writing, there is no sign that Iranian military is taking steps toward that end, however, the situation on the ground could escalate if Shia in Bahrain ramp up demonstrations.

Read more: Saudi Intervention in Bahrain | STRATFOR

 

Red Alert from Stratfor

Saudi police have reportedly opened gunfire on and launched stun grenades at several hundred protesters today,  March 10, who were protesting in the heavily Shiite-populated city of Qatif in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province.

The decision to employ violence in this latest crackdown comes a day before Friday prayers, after which various Saudi opposition groups were planning to rally in the streets. Unrest has been simmering in the Saudi kingdom over the past couple weeks, with mostly Sunni youth, human rights activists and intellectuals in Riyadh and Jeddah campaigning for greater political freedoms, including the call for a constitutional monarchy. A so-called "Day of Rage" of protests across the country has been called for March 11 by Facebook groups Hanyn (Nostalgia) Revolution and the Free Youth Coalition following Friday prayers.

What is most critical to Saudi Arabia, however, is Shiite-driven unrest in the country's Eastern Province. Shiite activists and clerics have become more vocal in recent weeks in expressing their dissent and have been attempting to dodge Saudi security forces. The Saudi regime has been cautious thus far, not wanting to inflame the protests with a violent crackdown but at the same time facing a growing need to demonstrate firm control.

Yet in watching Shiite unrest continue to simmer in the nearby island of Bahrain, the Saudi royals are growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of Shiite uprisings cascading throughout the Persian Gulf region, playing directly into the Iranian strategic interest of destabilizing its U.S.-allied Arab neighbors. By showing a willingness to use force early, the Saudi authorities are likely hoping they will be able to deter people from joining the protests, but such actions could just as easily embolden the protesters.

There is a strong potential for clashes to break out March 11 between Saudi security forces and protesters, particularly in the vital Eastern Province. Saudi authorities have taken tough security measures in the Shiite areas of the country by deploying about 15,000 national guardsmen to thwart the planned demonstrations by attempting
to impose a curfew in critical areas. Energy speculators are already reacting to the heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf region, but unrest in cities like Qatif cuts directly to the source of the threat that is fueling market speculation: The major oil transit pipelines that supply the major oil port of Ras Tanura — the world's largest, with a capacity of 5 million barrels per day — go directly through Qatif.


This is a Red Alert from Stratfor (c) 2011 Reproduced with permission www.stratfor.com  

 
 

Latest from the Ministry of Defence

Cookies
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Defence Viewpoints website. However, if you would like to, you can modify your browser so that it notifies you when cookies are sent to it or you can refuse cookies altogether. You can also delete cookies that have already been set. You may wish to visit www.aboutcookies.org which contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of desktop browsers. Please note that you will lose some features and functionality on this website if you choose to disable cookies. For example, you may not be able to link into our Twitter feed, which gives up to the minute perspectives on defence and security matters.