Left unmentioned until quite late in this report is the sectarian aspect of the story, as Saudi Arabia is eager to keep a lid on its own, grudgingly tolerated, suppressed Shi’ite minority, Bahrain’s Sunni rulers try to keep power over a majority Shi’ite population, and an opportunistic Iran is undoubtedly moving in the background to take advantage however it can.
Sunni-Shi’ite Jihad Update. “Foreign troops enter Bahrain as protests continue,” from CNN, March 14:
(CNN) — Foreign troops arrived Monday in the strategically and financially important Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain after a month of citizen protests, the Bahraini government said.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain’s giant neighbor to the west, appears to have provided at least some of the troops, who arrived under the banner of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
In a statement, the government described the troops as “coalition forces” but did not say what countries were represented. Their mission was equally vague: “The GCC Peninsula Shield coalition forces arrived in the Kingdom of Bahrain today following recent events, to help protect the safety of citizens, residents and critical infrastructure,” it said.
The Saudi state news agency said its government had responded to Bahrain’s request for help in view of the importance of security there.
According to the state news agency of the United Arab Emirates, southwest of Bahrain, it too “decided to send a security force to keep the peace in the Kingdom of Bahrain” at that country’s request.
Anwar Mohammed Qerqash, the UAE minister for foreign affairs, described the move as part of his country’s responsibility within the Gulf Cooperation Council to bring “security and stability to the region.”
It was not clear how many foreign security troops had entered Bahrain. Various parts of the Bahraini government referred CNN questions to other government offices on Monday.
A witness said dozens of armored vehicles and buses full of soldiers crossed Monday afternoon from Saudi Arabia into Bahrain afternoon via the causeway linking the two countries.
The Gulf Cooperation Council comprises six Gulf states — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar — and encourages cooperation among members in a number of areas, including the economy and security.
The movement of forces came on the same day that protesters seized control of a key part of the capital city of Manama, a Human Rights Watch official said.
About 100 demonstrators blocked access to the Bahrain Financial Harbour with barricades such as trash cans and cinderblocks, in effect shutting down the commercial district, Faraz Sanei said. […]
The underlying concern is that Iran, an overwhelmingly Shiite state, could seize the opportunity to meddle in Bahrain’s internal affairs. Bahrain has a Shiite majority population, but its rulers are Sunni.
Saudi Arabia’s eastern province is home not only to many of the country’s rich oil fields but to its largest concentration of minority Shiite as well. In recent weeks, Shiite demonstrators there have protested the Saudi government, whose leaders are overwhelmingly Sunni.
The Saudi government would presumably be concerned that any uprising by Shiite Muslims in Bahrain could inspire the Shiite population in nearby Saudi Arabia to follow suit.