Friday, February 15, 2013

Writing Samples: Bahrain Security Overview

I've spent a good portion of the last few days working on my portion of the memorandum that CN Slapshot and I will submit for our classmates to review prior to our class presentation on Persian Gulf security issues. I thought I'd share a couple of sections, and maybe more, in the next few weeks. Here's my first section(-in-progress) on security issues in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

* * *
Country: Kingdom of Bahrain
Religious Affiliations: Muslim* (70.2%), other (29.8%)
Ethnic Groups: Bahraini (Arab) 46%, other (54%)

Remarks: Bahrain is a tiny island nation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway. Bahrain is considered one of the most liberal states in the Gulf, and serves as a holiday destination for citizens of more socially austere Gulf nations, notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. As the saying goes, "Allah can't see across the causeway". As with the rest of the GCC states, Bahrain maintains close ties with the West, and its military bases (primarily its naval base, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet; and Isa Air Base) are used by Western forces.

Bahrain is to Iran as Kuwait is to Iraq: a former territory that Iran still considers part of its strategic purview. Bahrain's population is allegedly majority Shiite, while Bahrain's ruling family and upper class are Sunni. There is some question as to how much this has actually contributed to the uprising in Bahrain since February of 2011, but the Iranians exploit it in their propaganda, and are believed to have acted as provocateurs among the protestors - whether this is out of religious solidarity, or simply a justification for Realist foreign policy, is open to interpretation.[B1][B2][B3][B4]

The GCC Peninsula Shield Force was deployed for the third time in history as a result of the Bahrain uprising[B5], one possible motivation being a show of force to demonstrate bloc solidarity to an Iranian audience. The force included more than 1000 Saudi troops and 500 Emirati police to protect critical infrastructure on the island,[B6] and Kuwaiti naval forces to monitor the country's coastline.[B7] This was followed in mid-2011 with the expulsion of three accused Iranian spies.[B8]

[B1] CNN: Bahrain's King: Foreign plot to destabilize country foiled
[B2] BBC: Bahrain tensions a trigger for Gulf turmoil
[B3] Times of Oman: Iran told to keep out of Saudi-Bahrain affairs
[B4] Kuwait Times: Bahrain releases Kuwaiti prisoner
[B5] Al Arabiya: GCC troops dispatched to Bahrain to maintain order
[B6] Asharq al Awsat: A talk with Peninsula Shield force commander Mutlaq Bin Salem al-Azima
[B7] Arab Times: Kuwait naval units join Bahrain mission
[B8] AFP: Bahrain Jails Three Iran 'spies'

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