Multiple sources are confirming that Saudi Arabia has moved approximately 1,000 troops into the neighboring nation of Bahrain to help quell the ongoing protests there. A Saudi official told the Associated Press that the troops were sent in to help secure vital infrastructure such as the numerous oil installations on the island.
Bahrain, which has been mostly overlooked during the recent Middle East protest coverage, has had regular protests similar to Egypt and Tunisia since mid-February. The protests have focused around the capital city of Manama.
Bahrain is the primary staging ground of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is also based out of Manama. Speaking to military personnel stationed with the Fleet, this blogger was told that the situation has remained calm despite the protests and that aside from a slight increase in security and orders to not go into the city, the base's day-to-day operations have remained the same.
Saudi Arabia is also currently facing a wave of protests, though nothing approaching the intensity and size of other protests in the region. The Saudi protests are primarily happening in the Eastern Province where the majority of the population is Shia. Shiite Muslims also appear to make up the majority of the protesters in Bahrain. Both the Bahrain and Saudi Arabia monarchies are from the rival Sunni sect of Islam.
If the Saudi troops are inside Bahrain to help the protest in a peaceful manner and to ensure the protection of vital infrastructure as they have claimed, it's yet another indication that the U.S. is not needed to interfere in the nations around the region, such as Libya.
It's also telling that the U.S. has not considered sending troops into Bahrain, despite its strategic and economic importance to the region. While many would argue that there is a difference between the moral and strategic reasoning behind sending in troops, losing control of Bahrain would disturb America's position in the world far more than doing nothing in Libya.
While there are multiple ulterior motives for Saudi troops to enter Bahrain -- not the least of which is monarchs and like religious groups helping each other out -- it does show that there is a will for Middle Eastern nations to send troops into a country if they think that it's truly needed.