The unstable stand-off between the Sunni Muslim monarchy and mainly Shia opposition demonstrators in Bahrain broke down over last weekend.
The mass protest movement demanding democratic reforms erupted over a month ago. Alarmed, the state backed off — temporarily — following the killing of seven protesters in a failed clampdown.
On Sunday thousands of protesters attempted to enter the financial area of the capital, Manama. The police reacted with great violence, shooting with rubber bullets, tear gas and live rounds.
There was also fighting at the University of Bahrain in the southern city of Sakhir.
Bahrain has a fake-democratic political system which discriminates against the Shia majority and leaves real power in the hands of the monarch. Although some oppositionists have stressed the non-sectarian nature of their movement, demands for democracy have a potentially additional — and explosive — sectarian aspect in Bahrain.
And there appears to be a widening split in the opposition, between those calling for reform within the existing framework, and others demanding the abolition of the Sunni monarchy.
Leading Sunni politicians have begun calling for martial law.
On Monday Bahrain’s crown prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa formally asked its neighbours — led by the reactionary Sunni Islamist monarchy of Saudi Arabia — for help. Abdulrahman bin Hamad al-Attiya, the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the regional bloc that includes both Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, expressed “full solidarity with Bahrain’s leadership.”
A Saudi official said about 1,000 Saudi Arabian troops had arrived in Bahrain on Monday, and the UAE said it had sent 500 police officers. 150 Saudi armoured troop carriers, ambulances and jeeps crossed into Bahrain via the 25 km causeway that separates Bahrain from Eastern Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi rulers are worried about Bahrain’s opposition movement spilling over to Shia in its own Eastern Province, the centre of its oil industry. About 15% of the Saudi population are Shia, and any manifestation of opposition is dealt with brutally.
In addition, the US’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain. The US considers Bahrain’s rulers as important allies, and has not condemned the Saudi intervention.
No good can possibly come from the foreign policy of the right-wing, sectarian Saudi state which poisons everything it touches. Foreign troops out of Bahrain!