[Editor’s Note: WorldVoices—a new recurring feature of the WorldPolicy blog—links to opinion and analysis of current events from English-language news sources around the globe.]
By Eleanor T. West
On Tuesday, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain declared a state of emergency after weeks of violent upheaval in the island kingdom. Protestors—mostly members of the country’s Shiite majority—have called for an end to the reign of the country’s Sunni monarchs. During the three-month state of emergency, the King declared, Bahrain’s defense forces will “preserve the security of the nation and its people.”
The United Nations, Britain, and the United States are calling for restraint. At least two people were killed in clashes outside Manama in the Shia suburb of Sitra on Tuesday.
The King’s announcement came the day after 1,000 Saudi-led troops of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) entered the kingdom in order to subdue protestors at the request of Bahrain’s government. The presence of Saudi troops provoked anger in Iran, which has long engaged with its Saudi rivals in a struggle for influence in Bahrain.
Iran News Daily quotes Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi-Golpaygani condemning Saudi involvement.
'The awakening and Islamic movement of people who are under the yoke of anti-Islam and arrogant governments and their (the people's) loss of patience, particularly in Arab countries, are among very important events in modern history … The freedom-seeking effort, which started in Tunisia, rapidly spread to the entire region and Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain were influenced by this anti-arrogance Islamic move' … [he] posed a question to Saudi rulers that claim to be an advocate for all Muslims, saying, 'When will your century-long close cooperation with colonialist powers, including the United States and Britain end?'
Al Jazeera’s live blog quotes a U.S. academic in Bahrain who feels the presence of GCC military force is a threat.
I think it's quite a big change. I don't believe that people thought the GCC military force was anything substantial, but clearly … there is a feeling that these are not friendly troops, that this is in fact a military occupation. This is what some of the opposition people are saying, whereas the government people are saying, 'We asked for our friendly neighbours to give us a hand dealing with trouble-makers and saboteurs'.
In an opinion piece for Alawasat Newspaper, Husein Shobokshi praises the GCC’s decision to send troops to intervene in Bahrain.
The Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] member states did well when they sent support forces "to safeguard security" in the Kingdom of Bahrain after the demonstrations and threats turned into total destruction and stopped being "peaceful". This is especially true since there is a clear and frank call for dialogue made by the Bahraini crown prince who also offered a list of political transformations that respond to most of the demands of the opposition. By the way, this opposition does not speak on behalf of all the Bahraini people and not even on behalf of the entire Shi'ite sect in Bahrain.
An editorial in Arab News opposes the Iranian viewpoint that the Saudi troops in Bahrain constitute a foreign presence.
Bahrain is not part of Iran, whatever Tehran may think or claim — as it regularly does. It is an Arab state and part of the GCC which exists, among other things, as a mutual defense organization. If any one member feels threatened, externally or internally, it has the right in international law to call for help from the others. That is what Bahrain has done. For Iran to talk of foreign interference is a calculated insult to all Arabs and flies in the face of reality.
Eleanor T. West is an editorial assistant at World Policy Journal.
Photo courtesy of flickr user Al Jazeera English.