You really do have to hand it to the Saudis, in a way: they could have chosen any point over almost the last month to humbly request the permission of the Bahrani royal family to come in and safeguard the island kingdom's key facilities from the grubby hands of the Shia majority, who've spent that same time period continually protesting for reform. Instead they've bided their time, and have duly found the most opportune moment in which to
invade occupy provide assistance to their friends in their hour of need. With the world's attention quite rightly on the human catastrophe in Japan, and with the West bickering over just how we should further sabotage the Libyan uprising, no one's going to pay much heed to allies helping out allies, are they?
Well, the United States and our good selves sure aren't. Just as we've demanded that the tyrant Gadaffi leave immediately, we've said precisely nothing whatsoever about the crackdown by the House of Saud on anyone daring to express even the mildest dissent against their enlightened reign. Last week saw all protests banned ahead of a optimistically planned "Day of Rage", which sadly but predictably seems to have failed to take place. That suits us just fine, it has to be said: if there's one thing we desperately need when the rest of the Arab world is finding its voice, it's for the Saudis and their oil to keep flowing with no interruptions whatsoever. As our leaders demand that the dictators and autocrats we've propped up for the last few decades heed the anger of their people, and they consider whether stability without freedom isn't really stability at all, the last thing we need is any rocking of the boat on the black gold front. Both ourselves and the Americans have substantial interests in Bahrain after all: the US Fifth Fleet, integral to operations in Iraq, is based off the capital, Manama.
Indeed, according to the US, today's deployment of 1,000 Saudi troops in armoured 4x4s with 500 police from the United Arab Emirates is most certainly not an invasion. Even so, the usual calls for "restraint" are being made. Restraint is always an interesting word to use when it comes to protests, as its carries an obvious, ominous double meaning with it: before the US finally decided after days of procrastination to dispense with Mubarak, it had urged the protesters and the police across Egypt to restrain themselves, as though the two were equals and both culpable. Laughable as that was, at least the Egyptian people were confident they had the army on their side: in Bahrain, the protesters are now having to face up to the realisation that the crack troops of another nation entirely are now lined up against them, beholden only to their own completely unaccountable rulers. Nothing could be more provocative, and yet all we can do is murmur restraint at this chilling development.
It certainly has the potential to be incredibly embarrassing to David Cameron. Before he decided that intervening in one specific uprising was imperative, he went on a tour of some of the nations in the Gulf Co-Operation Council, all while chiding those of us suggesting that this was the wrong time to be flogging weapons to vile dictatorships. It was absurd that we would deny such countries the right to defend themselves, and who better to supply these threatened nations with such devices of self-defence than Britain? Among the goodies we sold Saudi Arabia last year were 4-wheel drive vehicles and armoured personnel carriers; by a strange, spooky coincidence, it just so happens that among the convoy crossing the causeway into Bahrain from SA were 4-wheel drive vehicles and what look suspiciously like armoured personnel carriers.
Doubtless we can be reassured that their destructive capability will only be used if the Bahrani protesters fail to restrain themselves. It definitely wouldn't look good if rather than arming the rebels in Libya, we had instead inadvertently supplied the counter-revolutionaries in Bahrain with their tools of repression. Some revolutions however can clearly be sacrificed; all are equal, but some are more equal than others.
Labels: Bahrain, David Cameron, foreign policy, Libya, Libyan no fly zone, Middle East intifada, politics, Saudi Arabia