Thu, Feb 17, 2011 | DebkaFile
Deadly Crackdown on Bahrain Protesters
Tanks rolled into Pearl Square, Manama, early Thursday, Feb. 17, personally commanded by King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in full military regalia, hours after his police firing live ammunition and tear gas failed to break up the tent city set up by protesters against his rule. At least four protesters were killed and dozens injured.
The monarch has divided his small 9,000-strong army into three parts, one for Pearl Square, a second to guard the Bahrain Petroleum Co. refinery which produces 267,000 barrels of oil a day and forms the backbone of the Bahraini economy; and a third placed around the royal palace and the residential districts of the ruling elite.
Al-Khalifa has two major difficulties to crack: For the first time, the king’s biggest Shiite party, al-Wefaq has joined up with all 10 opposition parties to coordinate their protest action. The Shiite party leader, Sheik Ali Salman, says he is not seeking to establish an Islamic regime in Manama like the one in Tehran. Debkafile’s sources say he is after one-man rule for himself and his words are about as reliable as the pledges of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to eschew a role in government.
But the Bahraini ruler’s most acute problem is that while the Arabic and world media lump the protest movement in his kingdom with the pro-democracy uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, it is not the same in that it does not just represent genuine people power fighting an autocratic regime for reforms, but is fomented from Tehran.
Iran’s objective is to overthrow the Al-Khalifa regime and replace it with the first pro-Iranian government in the Arabian Gulf region. A Shiite regime in Manama will stir the Shiite minorities to revolt in other oil-rich Gulf states – and especially in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where they make up around one-fifth of the population.