About 1,000 Saudi soldiers enter Bahrain to protect gov't facilities, UAE also sends security force
Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain on Monday to help put down weeks of protests by the Shi'ite Muslim majority, a move opponents of the Sunni ruling family on the island called a declaration of war.
Analysts saw the troop movement into Bahrain, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, as a mark of concern in Saudi Arabia that concessions by the country's monarchy could inspire the conservative Sunni kingdom's own Shi'ite minority.
About 1,000 Saudi soldiers entered Bahrain to protect government facilities, a Saudi official source said, a day after mainly Shi'ite protesters overran police and blocked roads.
Dr Anwar Mohammed Gergash, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Monday that it had also decided to dispatch a security force of about 500 men to take part in preserving order and security in Bahrain.
"The United Arab Emirates affirms that this step represents a lively embodiment of its commitment to brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)," he said in comments published by state news agency WAM.
"The UAE calls on all the Bahraini people to respond positively and without prior conditions to this invitation to contribute to the reduction of tension, end the current crisis and find suitable solutions that would preserve the achievements of the brotherly Bahraini people," Gergash added.
"They are part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force that would guard the government installations," the source said, referring to the six-member bloc that coordinates military and economic policy in the world's top oil-exporting region.
Bahrain said on Monday it had asked the Gulf troops for support in line with a GCC defence pact. The United Arab Emirates has said it would also respond to the call.
Witnesses saw some 150 armoured troop carriers, ambulances, water tankers and jeeps cross into Bahrain via the 25km (16 mile) causeway and head towards Riffa, a Sunni area that is home to the royal family and military hospital.
Bahrain TV later showed footage it said was of advance units of the joint regional Peninsula Shield forces that had arrived in Bahrain "due to the unfortunate events that are shaking the security of the kingdom and terrorising citizens and residents".
Analysts and diplomats say the largest contingent in any GCC force would come from Saudi Arabia, which is worried about any spillover to restive Shi'ites in its own Eastern Province, the centre of its oil industry.
Bahraini opposition groups including the largest Shi'ite party Wefaq said the move was an attack on defenceless citizens.
"We consider the entry of any soldier or military machinery into the Kingdom of Bahrain's air, sea or land territories a blatant occupation," they said in a statement.
"This real threat about the entry of Saudi and other Gulf forces into Bahrain to confront the defenceless Bahraini people puts the Bahraini people in real danger and threatens them with an undeclared war by armed troops."
The move came after Bahraini police clashed on Sunday with mostly Shi'ite demonstrators in one of the most violent confrontations since troops killed seven protesters last month.
After trying to push back demonstrators for several hours, police backed off and youths built barricades across the highway to the main financial district of the Gulf banking hub.
Those barricades were still up on Monday, with protesters checking cars at the entrance to the Pearl roundabout, the focal point of weeks of protests. On the other side of the same highway, police set up a roadblock preventing any cars moving from the airport towards the financial area.
In areas across Bahrain, vigilantes, some armed with sticks or wearing masks, guarded the entrances to their neighbourhoods.
"We will never leave. This is our country," said Abdullah, a protester, when asked if Saudi troops would stop them. "Why should we be afraid? We are not afraid in our country."
Bahrain has been gripped by its worst unrest since the 1990s after protesters took to the streets last month, inspired by uprisings that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.
Thousands are still camped out at the Pearl roundabout, having returned since the army cleared out the area last month.
Washington has urged Bahrain to use restraint and repeated the call to other Gulf nations on Monday.
"We urge our GCC partners to show restraint and respect the rights of the people of Bahrain, and to act in a way that supports dialogue instead of undermining it," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
The cost of insuring Bahraini sovereign debt against default rose further on Monday, approaching 20-month highs after Saudi troops entered Bahrain.
Any intervention by Gulf Arab troops in Bahrain is highly sensitive on the island, where the Shi'ite Muslim majority complains of discrimination by the Sunni Muslim royal family.
Most Gulf Arab ruling families are Sunni and intervention might encourage a response from non-Arab Iran, the main Shi'ite power in the region. Accusations already abound of Iranian backing for Shi'ite activists in Bahrain -- charges they deny.
"Shi'ites in states with large Shi'ite populations, in particular Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, may intensify their own local anti-regime demonstrations," said Ghanem Nuseibeh, partner at consultancy Cornerstone Global.
"The Bahraini unrest could potentially turn into regional sectarian violence that goes beyond the borders of the particular states concerned."
In a sign that the opposition and the royals may find an 11th hour solution, the opposition groups said they had met the crown prince to discuss the mechanism for national dialogue.
Crown Prince Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa offered assurances on Sunday that dialogue would address key opposition demands including giving parliament more power and reforming government and electoral districts.
Even if talks are successful however, the opposition is increasingly split and hardline groups may keep up protests.
Wefaq is calling for a new government and a constitutional monarchy that vests the judicial, executive and legislative authority with the people. A coalition of much smaller Shi'ite parties are calling for the overthrow of the monarchy - demands that scare Sunnis who fear this would benefit Iran.
Staggering, cant help myself from likening the Bahraini Royal Families use of Saudi troops against their own people to Gaddafi's use of mercenaries. This act of desperation is a very risky move, if Saudi soldiers are provoked into shooting on opposition demonstrators, this will take on a whole new dimension.
This is dangerous, as it could lead to retaliation in Saudi Arabia.
The Yemen 'civil war' did spread into to Saudi Arabia last year.
"if" or rather "when"?
Situation can take a serious turn for the worst very easily. Lets hope cooler heads prevail, but yes this is a serious concern.
There are right now too many hotspots going on simultaneously and the chances of one of them going out of hand badly are quite high.
As bad as the Lybian situation is, specially for the people trapped in the area, a blow to the GCC stability would be really devastating.
Very Dangerous move. The Al Khalifa clan never has always lacked legitimacy. They are from Qatar and not Bahraini's, they were propped up by a succession of foreign powers, starting with the British , Americans and now any one who will come to their call of help. Any thing but sharing the wealth !
After nearly a 100 years of British/French carve up of Middle East the whole thing is unraveling.
Being a born in Bahrain, I had the privilege of seeing it transform from a very vibrant country into a country in turmoil. I do agree that in the initial stages not much was done for the ethnic Shai community and it was a breath of fresh air when the King cleaned the slate and did fundamental changes for the betterment of this community. Many have taken this opportunity and risen well with the community and no matter how much is done it will never be a wave of a wand. The fault hope given by these extremist are alarming. It promises equality to what? IRAN ! Itâ€™s a nation which was built in the form of modernity. This slow push to the dark ages is not a step forward. We need leaders not criminals. What I see is criminal having their way looting expats, killing neighbors in the false pretense of revolution. This is not anarchy and if they cannot follow Ghandhian way to democracy they are no less that terrorist. BAHRAIN, Wake up and learn from the examples which worked.
Killing Shia's in Bahrain, will surely get iran involved into a broader Middle East conflict. Who knew that 3 months ago a fruit seller in a village in Tunisia would spark this
I do not see anything wrong with people protesting peacefully. However it looks as if Bahrain now has protesters demonstrating violently which is unacceptable. Surely the worst thing to happen now is to send in army troops which will add fuel to the fire so to speak. The leaders of Bahrain say they want to talk to the opposition but it is clear this hasn't worked - what now? Civil war?, more deaths? A Libyan situation? It is clear from the unrest seen across the Middle East that the people are talking and the leaders must must listen and act quickly. The masses have had enough of being ruled unfairly....
Why all the media blame Gaddafi only!! and ignores the case with Yemen and Bahrain ??!!! Does any one answer?!!!
This is a clear sign of how these two governments would react should the unrest gather pace within their own borders. If nothing else, this is a warning to their own residents. Saudi authorities have already acted in a similar and very regrettable fashion.
The rulers' authority is not open for debate or question. In this day and age, when those two countries want to paint a business-friendly and modern image to the world, these decisions and attitudes really jar.
While they can be proud of the rapid development their two countries have seen, largely thanks to the oil boon, the UAE and Saudi now need to see how they can bring their political system more in line with their people's aspiration. Their citizens have a voice and they want to be heard. Just look at the popularity of social media networks.
It is indeed one monarchy protecting the illegitamacy of another monarchy and nothing else. The Saudis are high on the fact that their 'day of rage' was smothered by a show of force and are now convincing the rest of their GCC allies that that is the way to go...even to the point of sending troops and armaments.
The Bahraini people will not forget this trechery from the Saudis who should have not interfered in the internal affairs of their country.