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Saudi troops arrive in Bahrain to help ruling monarchy tackle protests

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have responded to Bahrain’s call for support amid escalating unrest.

Bahrain TV screen grab showing Saudi troops arriving in Bahrain yesterday.
Bahrain TV screen grab showing Saudi troops arriving in Bahrain yesterday.
Image: AP Photo/Bahrain TV via APTN

SAUDI ARABIAN TROOPS HAVE arrived in Bahrain to bolster the monarchy against escalating demonstrations calling for political reform in the kingdom, marking the first cross-border military response since protests broke out in the Arab world in December.

The UAE has sent around 500 police to Bahrain, which the UAE’s foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said was a response to Bahrain’s request “to look at ways to help them defuse the tension”.

The Bahraini royal family had appealed to the five other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which the UAE is the current president, for support.

Al-Nahyan said other Gulf countries were supporting the Bahraini goverment “to get calm and order in Bahrain and to help both the Bahraini government and people to reach a solution which is for the best for the Bahraini people”.

Gulf leaders are understood to be concerned that political gains by Bahrain’s Shiites over its ruling Sunni Muslims might give Shiite Iran a stepping stone to its rival Saudi Arabia. However, the leaders have focused on the situation in Bahrain rather than regional interests in explaining their provision of military and police support.

A Bahrain expert at the Chatham House think-tank in London, Jane Kinninmont, said that the foreign military intervention denotes a change in the nature of the Gulf council which has had collective defence agreements:

The idea of gathering together to protect a government against its own people seems to be quite another thing.

When word of the foreign military reinforcement filtered through, protesters began blocking roads in Bahrain’s capital Manama and thousands swarmed into Pearl Square, where the protests first kicked off in Bahrain.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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