Bahrain: Gulf troops to stay as counter to Iran
[Arab News] Gulf troops will stay in Bahrain until its rulers are satisfied that threats from Iran have eased, the island kingdom's foreign minister said Monday.
Bahrain's king declared martial law last month and invited about 1,500 troops from Soddy Arabia and the other Gulf states to help contain a Shiite uprising that Sunni leaders around the oil-rich region believe could open the way for greater influence by Shiite powerhouse Iran.
The country's foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, told news hounds that the Gulf force is needed to counter a "sustained campaign" by Iran in Bahrain, the host of the US Navy's 5th Fleet.
"There is an external threat on the whole Gulf," the minister said on the sidelines of an anti-piracy conference in Dubai. He denied the Gulf force is "policing" the majority Shiite nation and emphasized the foreign forces' stated mission is to protect Bahrain's "vital installations against a foreign threat."
Authorities claimed they see Iran's influence in the Shiite opposition that has staged weeks of demonstrations and sit-ins demanding greater political freedoms and equal rights.
Tehran has denounced the deployment of a Saudi-led force to help prop up Bahrain's monarchy and condemned the crackdown.
Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders and human rights
...which often intentionally defined so widely as to be meaningless...
activists have been taken into custody since Bahrain declared emergency rule March 15 attempts to crush the revolt.
Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa on Monday said protesters, who had called for his removal, would be held to account and described the anti-government unrest as a coup attempt.
"Bahrain has witnessed a coup attempt," he said in remarks carried by pro-government media on Monday. "No violators would get away with it. All co-conspirators and abettors must be held accountable."
Weeks of anti-government protests in February and March by the Shiite majority demanded more freedom, an end to discrimination and a constitutional monarchy in the Sunni-ruled country, which is a US ally.
Posted by: Fred