Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Gulf States' Victory Over Iran In Bahrain

One of the lesser noticed fronts of the so-called 'Arab Spring' is the island of Bahrain, an oil rich nation in the Persian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran and home to an important US base at Juffair.

The population is predominantly Shi'ite with the ruling Al-Khalifa royal family being Sunni, and there's always been a certain amount of unrest because of that, but it never really became full blown until recently when Iran decided to organize and fund a Shi'ite, pro Iran revolt against the current ruler, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa as a move against the Sunni Gulf aristocracies led by Saudi Arabia, which has its own restive Shia minority.

On March 15, a month after the beginning of the Iran-fueled unrest, the government of Bahrain began a crackdown on the protesters as Saudi Arabia, together with the Gulf states sent 1,000 Saudi troops from the Peninsula Shield Force to Bahrain in support. This military move, made under the auspices the Gulf Cooperation Council ( GCC) states' joint defense pact, was aimed at helping the Bahraini authorities defeat the Iranian-backed revolt.

The Saudis were quite emphatic about this being a line in the sand against Iran, with Saudi Foreign Minister Emir Saud Al-Faisal declaring at a March 14, 2011 meeting in the Bahraini capital Manama that Saudi Arabia's security and Bahrain's were linked and that the GCC countries would join together to safeguard it.

The Saudis and the other Gulf States not only sent troops into Bahrain, they shut down Iranian media channels, expelled a number of Iranian diplomats and made a number of public statements demanding Iran stop interfering in the affairs of the Gulf states. When Iran tried to organize a civilian 'flotilla' to sail to Bahrain,they ended up recalling the vessels after Kuwait sent their navy into the area and threatened to sink the ships.

The Saudis and the other GCC nations have also realized that President Obama is not to be trusted to have their back, so they're taking steps to arm themselves, buying Leopard battle tanks from Germany , beginning negotiations on arms deals with China and saying openly that if Iran is allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, there's nothing stopping them from doing the same.

Iran's reaction to being confronted forcefully by the Saudis has been to abandon the rebels and retreat.There has been none of the normal belligerent rhetoric out of Iran's leaders,except a few halfhearted references to the 'Saudi invasion' of Bahrain and some threats of suicide bombers that were never carried out. Iran has not reacted militarily, not even with military maneuvers near Bahrain.

Instead, when confronted forcefully,Iran backed down, not wanting to take the risk of war with the united Sunni Gulf states, a war that might very well involve the US simply by default because of our bases in the area.

This is a huge deal, and a major lesson for the West in how to deal with Iran...not with appeasement, but with forceful and united strength.

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