This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
The situation in Bahrain has escalated further following Sunday’s clash between the opposition and Bahrain’s police force, when determined protestors formed a blockade preventing access to the highway leading to the country’s main financial district. This was the most intense day since last month’s deadly clash, which resulted in the death of seven protestors. To contain the situation, the Kingdom of Bahrain has requested troop deployment by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), a regional group of Gulf States (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE) formed in 1981 to promote economic cooperation and maintain collective security.
The GCC troops began deployment into the Kingdom of Bahrain on Monday with 1000 troops from Saudi Arabia, and 500 police officers from the UAE. These troops will primarily protect the oil and gas installations, and the financial institutions of the country; however this can pose a problem as the opposition has already made a strong statement that any outside military involvement would be considered an occupation, threatening the people of Bahrain. The protesters are the Shi’ite population, who form a majority of the population, and have for years felt discriminated against by the Sunni ruling elite. While the demands are not centered on overthrowing the monarchy of the Kingdom, protestors want government reform and want to see an Elected Parliament govern the state.
These protests and now the deployment of GCC troops raises the concern that a Sunni-Shi’ite clash might spill over through the region as Saudi has a strong Shi’ite population in its Eastern provinces, and Iran is also largely Shi’ite.
Reuters has reported that the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa, has attempted to reconcile with protesters, addressing their demands and assuring that the Kingdom will facilitate a dialogue between the current ruling elite and the protestors, to discuss government reforms. These discussions will have to take into consideration the demands of the Shi’ite protestors, including those made by Al-Wefaq, the largest Shi’ite party in Bahrain, which includes the installation of “a new government and a constitutional monarchy that vests the judicial, executive and legislative authority of the people”.
The US, keeping a close eye on the situation and aware of the GCC troop deployment, has also weighed in on the situation, encouraging the GCC and the Kingdom of Bahrain to protect the rights of the people. While dialogue may have been opened by the Crown Prince and demands made by the opposition, the fear now lies in how the people will react to the outside troops and how the troops will move forward as they protect the oil and gas installations, and the financial institutions, of Bahrain.
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