Saudi military forces in tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed the 16-mile causeway into the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain to defend the Sunni monarchy against a Shiite revolt, raising the specter of sectarian clashes and heightened conflict with Iran.
Saudi Arabia said 1,000 of its soldiers took part and the United Arab Emirates said 500 of its police officers had arrived at Bahrain’s request.
Tehran Times – Bahraini opposition groups, including the largest Shia Muslim party Wefaq, said on Monday that any intervention by foreign Arab forces on the Persian Gulf island is a declaration of war and occupation.
George Friedman points out at Stratfor –
Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition force into Bahrain to help the government calm the unrest there. This move puts Iran in a difficult position, as Tehran had hoped to use the uprising in Bahrain to promote instability in the Persian Gulf region. Iran could refrain from acting and lose an opportunity to destabilize the region, or it could choose from several other options that do not seem particularly effective
The Bahrain uprising consists of two parts, as all revolutions do. The first is genuine grievances by the majority Shiite population — the local issues and divisions. The second is the interests of foreign powers in Bahrain. It is not one or the other. It is both
A Saudi official said the soldiers were sent to protect Bahrain’s oil and power facilities and other key installations. The ultimate size of the force, and where in Bahrain it will be deployed, hasn’t been revealed.
The deployment followed a dramatic escalation in protests that broke out one month ago. On Sunday, police firing tear gas and rubber bullets effectively lost control of large areas of Manama’s financial district.
The U.S. views stability in Bahrain, home base for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, as critical to checking Iran’s influence in the Persian Gulf.
But the U.S. fears that Saudi intervention will prompt Iran to step up its role in Bahrain by spurring the Shiite revolt through public statements and covert support, officials and diplomats said.