· Delicate equilibrium threatened in the Persian Gulf ·
The Arabic Spring, rocking North Africa (Tunisia, Egypt and Libya), Yemen and Syria over the past six months, has arrived in Bahrain - Al Bahrayn, Mamlakat Al Bahrayan - the strategic archipelago composed of 33 islands in the Persian Gulf. Protests by the Shiite majority (about 60 per cent of the population) have broken out once more against the Sunni Monarchy of Al Khalifa, this time after the killing of a 14-year-old boy during an opposition march in the village of Sitra.
After the violent anti-government demonstrations earlier this year calling for political reform, the King was slow to meet the demands of the protesters. When he finally did, he declared emergency rule and completely militarized the territory. And, incensing the spirit of opposition, soldiers have been brought in from abroad to maintain public order: Saudi Arabian military and police from the United Arab Emirates, numbering just under 2,000 men (200 resources) ready for anything.
The U.S. - like Iran even if their interests clash – has condemned the arrival of Saudi armoured cars in Pearl Square, which took place without consulting Washington, unlike the Obama administration which referred to the authority of Manama on the matter of dialogue with opposition. The United States Navy commands its Fifth Fleet out of Bahrain. Their ships have the task of patrolling the Persian Gulf in defence of Saudi Arabia and its oil interests (the US imports 13 per cent of crude oil from Riyadh). In terms of geopolitics, the Persian Gulf is of vital import as 20 per cent of the world's oil passes through there each day, an average of 17 million barrels of oil heading in the direction of Europe and the United States.
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