Bahrain Protester 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
MANAMA, Bahrain - Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it stands ready "with all its capabilities" to shore up Bahrain's ruling royal family if a standoff with the Shi'ite-led opposition is not resolved soon, underscoring the kingdom's deep concern about its neighbor's ongoing political crisis.
RELATED:Iran briefly detains daughter of ex-president RafsanjaniOpinion:Knock, knock: History calling
Sunni-led Saudi Arabia props up Bahrain's al-Khalifa family with cash and has long sought to prevent the tiny Persian Gulf state - with its majority Shi'ite population - from falling into Iran's orbit. With dwindling oil resources, Bahrain relies heavily on Saudi Arabia for money and security.
It was unclear whether the Saudi comments indicated that the country was contemplating possible action in Bahrain or were merely meant to express growing anxiety among Saudi leaders. But some regional experts have long warned that a concerted Shi'ite challenge to the monarchy in Bahrain might prompt intervention from Saudi Arabia, which has its own restive Shi'ite minority population. The two countries are connected by a causeway.
The Saudi comments came as an uneasy calm prevailed in Bahrain's capital
Sunday. Protesters pitched tents and held a peaceful demonstration at a
central square as opposition leaders continued to rebuff the crown
prince's invitation to engage in dialogue.
The statements from Saudi Arabia, which had been largely silent on the
crisis in Bahrain since protests erupted a week ago, were issued in
quick succession. The official Saudi press agency reported that the
kingdom was following developments in Bahrain "with concern" and that it
hopes to see a "restoration of calm and stability" under Bahrain's
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands with all its capabilities behind the
state and the brotherly people of Bahrain," the statement added.
Shortly afterward, it was announced that Saudi Arabia's powerful
minister of interior, Prince Nayef, had called Bahrain's King Hamad bin
Isa al-Khalifa to convey the same message.
Kuwait's emir, Sheik Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah, also called the Bahraini king
on Sunday and stressed that "the security of Bahrain is the security of
the region," reflecting the growing anxiety among gulf monarchies that
Bahrain's troubles could have a spillover effect. In Kuwait, protesters
have already taken to the streets demanding more rights.
Saudi Arabia's expression of concern came as Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman
of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Riyadh for two days of
consultations with the Saudi leadership, the first stop on a regional
tour. The purpose of his mission is to "reassure, discuss and understand
what is going on," Mullen told reporters. Bahrain, in addition to its
proximity to Saudi Arabia, hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet, which has
served as a hub for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In the Bahraini capital, the Pearl Square roundabout, which had been the
site of vicious crackdowns against protesters, again had the feeling of
a festival. Families set out picnics, vendors sold tea and pastries and
a tight knot of traffic stopped up what is usually one of Manama's most
The only noticeable government presence was a string of police officers keeping watch over the area from a nearby highway.
The king "should work for us, not for himself," said Wafi al-Maged, a
construction worker. "He's a very, very lucky king to have such peaceful
people. Our demands are for jobs, health care, good education - that's
At the Salmaniya Medical Complex, where doctors and staff said they had
been prevented from sending out ambulances after Bahrain's military
fired on protesters on Friday, pillars near the main entrance bore
posters of one of the most seriously wounded, zoo worker Abdul al-Redha.
Inside, Redha, a bullet lodged in his head, clung to life, but doctors
said that he no longer showed signs of brain function. Family members
gathered around his hospital bed, where he was covered in a
red-and-white Bahraini flag.
On Sunday, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa tried to coax Shi'ite
opposition leaders to meet with him to discuss their demands for
When asked about Salman's invitation, Jassim Hussain of the Shi'ite
political party al-Wefaq said, "we have not really done anything."
Hussain, whose party withdrew from the 40-member lower house of
parliament last week, added: "We think the environment must be right for
any meaningful dialogue."
(c) 2011, The Washington Post