Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Meanwhile in Bahrain

With the whole world's attention focused attention on Japan and to a lesser extent Libya, serious events are unfolding in Bahrain that have significant impact on the United States' military posture in the Middle East. The U.S. has had a significant naval presence since a build up that began in 1997. It is now the home of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. As you can see from the map, the location of a naval base on the island in the middle of the Persian Gulf provides a significant strategic outpost.

Recent protests and riots pitting the the predominantly Shia population against the ruling Sunni royalty is complicating and already difficult picture for U.S. interests. Today, King Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa declared martial law and the U.S. has permitted military dependents to voluntarily depart. Further, the King had to call on the assistance of Saudi troops to restore order yesterday. Iran apparently sees this as an opportunity to make trouble for the U.S. by supporting the protesters and criticizing the use of Saudi troops. From RCP:

Further underlining the regional implications of the unrest in Bahrain, Shiite power Iran denounced the intervention of foreign troops as "unacceptable" and predicted it would complicate the kingdom's political crisis.

Iran holds no deep political ties to Bahrain's Shiite groups, but some Iranian hard-liners have hailed their efforts over the years for greater rights for their community, which represents a majority of the nation's population. In the month of protests, the Shiite-led opposition is also pressing for political freedoms.

With all that's going on in the world, I hear Obama has filled out his brackets. Hopefully, that means he is leaving good people in charge.

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