Middle East

"Saudi Arabia is very, very scared now"


Despite denials from sources close to the Bahraini government, credible rumors of Saudi tanks and troops on the ground in Bahrain are widespread, as the ruling Bahraini House of Khalifa desperately reasserts control in the capital after initially ceding the central Pearl Square to tens of thousands of anti-government protesters. The House of Saud, as you may recall, has a strong interest in ensuring that the Shiite-driven unrest in Bahrain doesn't spill over to Saudi Arabia's own Shiite-manned oil fields.

In addition to the Nicholas Kristof tweet that Jesse Walker posted earlier (more here), which suggested that Saudi troops were stopping ambulances from helping protesters injured in the surprise midnight attack (and that's not the only suggestion of medics being prevented from helping), there are a few reports that Saudi tanks may have arrived on the island. One Spanish racing team owner (Bahrain was set to host the season-opening Formula 1 Grand Prix next month, something which is now very much in doubtclaimed that "there are Saudi tanks everywhere." An Iranian news organization is claiming the Saudis sent hundreds of tanks and personnel carriers in from Qatar, which it backs up with a video of armored personnel carriers rolling down a highway in Manama, though I can't confirm that those are actually from Saudi Arabia. The Guardian writes, somewhat ambiguously: "Tanks and troops from Saudi Arabia were reported to have been deployed in support of Bahraini forces."

Regardless of whether or not Saudi troops and tanks actually took part in the brutal early morning attack that dislodged the protesters from Pearl Square, the Khalifas have taken measures to prevent their own security forces from sympathizing with the mostly Shiite Bahraini protesters. For years the Sunni rulers of Bahrain have been accused of recruiting foreign riot police and naturalizing them in an effort to avoid an Egypt-like situation where low-level officers refuse orders to fire on their countrymen. As a result, few among the Bahraini security forces speak the local dialect, and some of the Pakistanis don't speak Arabic at all.

As the situation in Bahrain heats up, many commentators are casting an eye towards Saudi Arabia. Reuters reports that the Saudis "must now worry" that Bahrain's protests "may embolden" Saudi Arabia's own Shiite population. The Financial Times' Barney Jopson claims that "Bahrain has the potential to inspire political ructions in Saudi Arabia," and that "the longer protests continue in Bahrain the more [Saudi Arabia's stability] has to be questioned." Steve Soltoff at the DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies puts it more bluntly: "Saudi Arabia is very, very scared now."

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  1. Oh, boy, I can’t wait to hear how the administration waffles on that revolt, if it happens.

  2. It’s gonig to be fascinating to watch which protests in which Middle eastern countries have an effect, and which ones don’t.

    1. So far the deciding factor seems to be US support- in that, if the US likes you, or at least doesn’t dislike you, you’re going down. If you’re a US enemy, you survive.

      1. I noticed the same correlation.

        1. Or the enemies of the US (Iran for example) are just better and killing their own people?

          1. That’s my opinion.

  3. Top off those gas tanks, boys and girls.

  4. The thought of the Heads of the House of Saud being paraded through the streets of Riyadh brings a smile to my face.

    1. The sooner the House of Saud’s and senior Wahhabi clerics’ heads are displayed on spikes in downtown Riyadh, the better.

      1. I feel the same way about the pigs in Iran, but I’m not that hopeful that protests will go anywhere, mainly because I believe the Iranian regime’s resolve in putting down any dissent is much greater than that of Saudi, or Egypt, or Tunisia.

        1. you underestimate the brutality of saudi royals.

    2. Why? The Royals are the most liberal element in Arabia. They’ve been trying to bring in reforms, like letting women drive and work, for years and the population has refused.

      1. It would certainly do us well to remember that Al Qaeda was borne of the notion that the Saudi Royals were too liberal, too westernized, and weren’t striking the proper tone on women’s rights.

      2. The Saudi Royals have supported the most extreme of Wahabbist clerics for many years. They only get upset when the clerics slip the leash. They are also major financers of anti-semitic propaganda in the Middle East.

        Plus they are kleptocrats* on the scale of the late, unlamented Saddam.

        *(“Kleptocrats” may be a misnomer in the sense that, like France’s Ancienne Regime, they believe the country belongs to them, so it isn’t stealing.)

        1. My limited understanding is that not all Saudi princes are the same. Some are westernized playboys, others want to return the nation Wahabbiism through subversive means.

  5. Maybe we can get the Saudis to deploy in Wisconsin?

  6. Those look like APCs, not tanks (from the video there). Can’t wait till the M1s make it over there, though…

    1. Why bother with heavy artillery to kill people when you can load an APC with Marines and still have a duece on the roof.

      1. oops… was just me. not me^3


        1. APC has a greater compliment of gents in uniform for steve to rape!

      2. They’re tanks to most civilians…

        Most people probably don’t even know APC much less armored personnel carrier.

        1. And if you’re just mowing down mostly unarmed protesters, it’s a distinction without much of a difference. The crowd isn’t going to be able to do more than scratch the paint either way.

      3. And as to this:

        in Manama, though I can’t confirm that those are actually from Saudi Arabia.

        Those look like a mix of M113s and HMMWVs to me. Both the Saudi Arabian Army and the Bahrainian army field M113s, (going off of wiki), but it looks like only the Saudis field HMMVWs.

        So I think those have to be Saudi troops.

  7. Saudi TEAM BLUE: Damn Tea Partiers!

    1. Qat Party?

      1. Yes – much better.

  8. So if the Shia-majority government encounters a future security problem in Iraq, and invites in Iranian tanks to help them deal with it, the US will say…?

    1. “We boycott your Olympics.”

      1. That’s what I’d do.

    2. Or if Iran asks for Iraqi tanks to help quell their riots, that’ll be a fascinating diplomatic trainwreck.

  9. By Saudi tanks, you mean U.S. tanks. Sweet, I love when foreign aid physically crushes free speech and assembly.

  10. It’s like watching the Iron Curtain come down again. Only the end result is less predictable.

  11. Sharif he don’t like it.

    1. Yeah, but his wives will! Rock the Casbah indeed!

  12. Please, please let Saudi Arabia go revolutionary. What a day that would be. Watching all the Saudi princes scrambling for their private jets, and there not being enough runway for all of them…

    1. Aren’t most of the poor in SA the same as other Arab nations and just imported labor and not actual citizens. Not that such people wouldn’t revolt, just think it might be less likely.

    2. What’s really weird about this is that I was watching TCM’s Peter O’Toole retrospective last night, starting (for me–they ran a number of his films) with My Favorite Year and ending with Lawrence of Arabia. So last night, I’m all down with Feisal, Ali, and Auda Abu Tayi. Now, of course, back to the 21st century, I say fuck ’em and their oppressive ways. Strange cognitive dissonance.

      1. Not really. You knew the outcome already. Here, not so much.

        1. I just mean that I was for the Arabs who ended up running Saudi Arabia last night; now I’m hoping they get tossed. Heck, I’d be okay with the Turks taking over again, at this point.

          1. I suppose it would help if King Abdullah were played in real life by Alec Guinness.

          2. Self determination doesn’t always end up smelling like roses.

          3. The royals supported by Lawrence were NOT the Saudis, but the Hashemites who are now ruling Jordan. Saudis took over later.

            1. Ah, I stand corrected.

              Good. That means I’m in proper alignment again.

      2. I don’t really like Lawrence of Arabia. The whole thing seems so damn self-indulgent.

        Erich von Stroheim would have come up with those wonderful desert shots 40 years earlier in the finale of Greed if ultra-wide-screen camers had been available in 1923.

        1. Really? I love that film! It’s off on the history and inflates the importance of Lawrence and, for that matter, of the Arab revolt itself, but it’s still a very well done and well-acted movie.

  13. I’m starting to think the ME is more news worthy than the union tards in Wisconsin and the fact the states entire democrat representation for the senate may have left the state to stop a vote…

  14. No way are the Shiite’s going to cause problems in Saudi Arabia. They are a minority and if they revolt the Sunni POPULATION will attack them. Sunni’s hate Shiite’s and would just as soon kill them as anything else. Remember in Arabia the citizens are more conservative than the government.

    1. They’re a minority overall, but a localized majority along the Gulf coast. Which is where all the oil is. And is right next to Iraq’s Shiite provinces.

      A Shiite uprising in that area might well manage to take it over, declare independence, and call on Iran and Shiites Iraq for support. At which point, who knows what the fuck would happen?

      1. You realize the Sunni’s have the Abrahm tanks and the F-16’s? The Royals will kill everybody if that’s what it takes to retain control.

  15. The STEVE SMITH enhancements are a nice touch. (I assume this is a bonus feature of reasonable.)

  16. I never want to hear the phrase “Arab ally” ever again. There is hardly a more virulent kernel of Anti-Americanism than the Wahhabi-preaching, terror-funding Sauds. Our other enemies treat us better.

  17. You have me on video bowing down in front of the Saudi prince’s cock. I can always change sides later and take credit no matter who comes out on top.

    1. They never caught me on video…

  18. “Remember in Arabia the citizens are more conservative than the government.
    reply to this.” Maybe the conservative Wahabbi Sunnis living in the dusty shadows of the Saudi Royal palaces will rise up and demand that the princes stop being playboys.

    1. The clerics will keep them in line. That’s the ancient deal. The Royals and the Clerics support each other so they both stay in power.

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