Nytt

Bahrain har trukket en klar grense i sanden, hit, men ikke lenger. Saudiske soldater og politi fra Emiratene viser at kongen mener alvor.

Trolig er det Irans nærvær som har utløst den kontante reaksjonen: tre måneders unntakstilstand og rydding av Perleplassen. Saudi-Arabia vet hva som står på spill, og akter ikke å ta noen sjanser.

Dette er et annet spill enn Libya, selv om begge handler om makt og vold, så er både miksen og konteksten vidt forskjellig. I Libyas tilfelle er det snakk om en diktator på overtid, i Bahrains tilfelle er det snakk om et alternativ som er langt verre enn dagens regime: Iran bruker Bahrain som en brikke i sitt spill, og har hatt ambisjoner om å styrte kongedømmet i Saudi-Arabia siden 1979.

Thus far, it appears the crackdown has had the desired effect of intimidating the bulk of the Shiite protest movement into keeping off the streets and dispersing those who ventured out in spite of the March 15 state of emergency declaration. Significantly, the moderate Al Wefaq party, Bahrain’s largest Shiite opposition group, which won 18 out of 40 seats in parliament, said after the crackdown that it has not played any role in organizing the protest called for by the youth movement. Though they have heavily criticized the entry of GCC troops into Bahrain and the use of violence against the demonstrators, Al Wefaq official told Reuters, “Al Wefaq has advised people since this morning to avoid confrontation with security forces and to remain peaceful.” The hard-line Shiite protesters belonging to the Coalition for a Republic, which have demanded the overthrow of the monarchy in Bahrain, will meanwhile attempt to escalate the situation, but appear to be facing considerable constraints in unifying and conforming the Bahraini Shia to their agenda.

The situation remains tenuous, however. Iran has made a concerted effort to brand the conflict in Bahrain as a purely sectarian clash between Sunni and Shia, giving rise to the expectation that Tehran will intervene in defense of the Shia against Bahraini and Saudi forces. STRATFOR has received several indications from Iranian and Hezbollah-linked sources that Tehran intends to escalate the situation in Bahrain and amplify protests elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region, particularly in the oil-rich, Shiite-concentrated cities of al-Qatif and al-Hasa in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. However, when considering the constraints on Iran to operate effectively in these areas, intent and capability can diverge greatly. In the case of Bahrain, the Iranians need a more unified Shiite front willing to incur casualties to escalate the situation there, and so far, Al Wefaq’s actions suggest they are moving in the opposite direction.

STRATFOR: Bahrain crackdown