Bahrain: Saudi troops to suppress protesters

2,000 Saudi Arabian troops bolster beleaguered Sunni ruling class

Bahrain’s monarchy has seen its grip on the country severely weakened by large protests over the last two months mainly from its oppressed Shiite majority population but also involving poor Sunnis.

The United Arab Emirates has also sent 500 police to help save Bahrain’s royal family.

On Sunday 13 March, thousands of Bahrainis, demanding democratic rights and social reforms, clashed with riot police in the capital Manama.

But while western governments have been quick and vocal in condemning the Gaddafi regime in Libya for using mercenary troops to suppress its country’s opposition, in Bahrain’s case the US administration could only muster a muffled, cautionary response. This is not surprising as the US has a major naval base in Bahrain which is situated across the Strait of Hormuz from Iran.

The Sunni dictatorship in Saudi Arabia had previously criticised the US’s lack of support for the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by protests, strikes and an uprising by the Egyptian masses. Clearly the Saudi regime is deeply worried about its existence if the neighbouring Bahrain ruling class is overthrown by a similar popular uprising.

Indeed fear of such a popular movement has led the Saudi regime to spend some of its billions of oil wealth on a jobs programme, while also beefing up its police and other repressive agencies.

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March 2011