The Crackdown in Bahrain


The New York Times reports from Bahrain:

Without warning, hundreds of heavily armed riot police officers rushed into Pearl Square here early Thursday, firing shotguns, tear gas and concussion grenades at the thousands of demonstrators who were sleeping there as part of a widening protest against the nation's absolute monarchy.

At least five people died, some of them reportedly killed in their sleep with scores of shotgun pellets to the face and chest, according to a witness and three doctors who received the dead and at least 200 wounded at a hospital here. The witness and the physicians spoke in return for anonymity for fear of official reprisals.

The military said later it had taken control of most of the capital and banned protests, The Associated Press reported. The announcement on state television said the military had "key parts" of Manama "under control," hours after the killings.

That just scratches the surface of what's going on in Bahrain right now. Nicholas Kristof tweets this allegation, for example:

1 #Bahrain ambulance driver told me #Saudi army officer held gun to his head, said wld kill him if helped injured.

In Egypt, ordinary soldiers refused to fire on demonstrators, helping turn the tide against the dictatorship. That may be less likely if the Bahraini protesters find themselves facing foreign troops rather than soldiers embedded in the local community. (*) Then again, this is a transnational revolutionary moment. Saudi soldiers might not have time to hold the line in Bahrain if they're preoccupied by an uprising at home.

Bonus link: "A Wikileaks Primer on the Cozy US-Bahrain Relationship."

* Addendum: "Foreign" is a relative term. Bahrain's domestic enforcers aren't exactly embedded in the local community either.