Monday, March 14, 2011

U.S.-Saudi Tensions Intensify With Mideast Turmoil

WASHINGTON — Even before Saudi Arabia sent troops into Bahrain on Monday to quell an uprising it fears might spill across its own borders, American officials were increasingly concerned that the kingdom’s stability could ultimately be threatened by regional unrest, succession politics and its resistance to reform.

So far, oil-rich Saudi Arabia has successfully stifled public protests with a combination of billions of dollars in new jobs programs and an overwhelming police presence, backed by warnings last week from the foreign minister to “cut any finger that crosses into the kingdom.”

Monday’s action, in which more than 2,000 Saudi-led troops from gulf states crossed the narrow causeway into Bahrain, demonstrated that the Saudis were willing to back their threats with firepower.

The move created another quandary for the Obama administration, which obliquely criticized the Saudi action without explicitly condemning the kingdom, its most important Arab ally. The criticism was another sign of strains in the historically close relationship with Riyadh, as the United States pushes the country to make greater reforms to avert unrest.

Other symptoms of stress seem to be cropping up everywhere.

Saudi officials have made no secret of their deep displeasure with how President Obama handled the ouster of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, charging Washington with abandoning a longtime ally. They show little patience with American messages about embracing what Mr. Obama calls “universal values,” including peaceful protests.

When Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton were forced to cancel visits to the kingdom in recent days, American officials were left wondering whether the cause was King Abdullah’s frail health — or his pique at the United States.

“They’re not in a mode for listening,” said one senior administration official, referring to the American exchanges with Saudi officials over the past two months about the need to get ahead of the protests that have engulfed other Arab states, including two of Saudi Arabia’s neighbors, Bahrain and Yemen. In recent days, Washington has tried to focus on the areas where its strategic interests and those of Saudi Arabia intersect most crucially: counterterrorism, containing Iran and keeping oil flowing.

The Americans fear that the unrest sweeping the Middle East is coming at a bad time for the Saudis, and their concerns have increased in recent weeks, partly because of the continued tumult in Bahrain. Many of the issues driving the protests elsewhere are similar to those in Riyadh: an autocratic ruling family resistant to sharing power, surrounded by countries in the midst of upheaval. At the same time, Saudi Arabia’s leadership is in question. King Abdullah, 87, is, by all accounts, quite ill, as is the crown prince.

The latest tensions between Washington and Riyadh began early in the crisis when King Abdullah told President Obama that it was vital for the United States to support Mr. Mubarak, even if he began shooting protesters. Mr. Obama ignored that counsel. “They’ve taken it personally,” said one senior American familiar with the conversations, “because they question what we’d do if they are next.”

Since then, the American message to the Saudis, the official said, is that “no one can be immune,” and that the glacial pace of reforms that Saudi Arabia has been engaged in since 2003 must speed up.

But the Saudi effort to defuse serious protests appears to take a different approach: a huge police presence, which smothered relatively small demonstrations in Riyadh and the Eastern Province last Friday; an appeal to the innate religious conservatism of the country; and an effort to throw more cash at Saudi citizens, who have become accustomed to the ultimate welfare state.

This month, Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, the interior minister and No. 2 in the line of succession, publicly underscored the kingdom’s ban on demonstrations. The government called in top Saudi newspaper editors to dictate how to report on protests foreign and domestic. The country’s senior religious clerics condemned public protests for not conforming with Islamic law. These steps built on $36 billion in pay raises, housing support, unemployment benefits and other subsidies that King Abdullah promised to keep the peace.

“All this is about social control in Saudi Arabia,” said Christopher Boucek, who studies the Middle East at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “People have been forecasting the fall of Saudi for a long time, and they’ve always been proved wrong. It’s a pretty resilient place.”

One of President Obama’s top advisers described the moves as more in a series of “safety valves” the Saudis open when pressure builds; another called the subsidies “stimulus funds motivated by self-preservation.”

Saudi officials, who declined to comment for this article to avoid fueling talk of divisions between the allies, said that the tensions had been exaggerated and that Americans who criticized the pace of reforms did not fully appreciate the challenges of working in the kingdom’s ultraconservative society.

Even as Libya has occupied much of the public debate, White House officials have said they have been focused most intently on the two Arab allies whose fates are most tied to American strategic interests: Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In a briefing for reporters last Thursday, Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, said that “the success of the democratic transformation under way in Egypt is absolutely critical,” and described his own conversations with its interim leadership. Mrs. Clinton will be visiting Cairo this week.

But Mr. Donilon, like other administration officials, said very little about the conversations they have held with Saudi leaders. Those have been strained in part by the slow-motion transition of power: King Abdullah, a popular monarch who just returned to the country after months of medical treatment in New York and Morocco, has been described by Saudi specialists as reform-minded but constrained by more conservative family members; the country’s next in line, Crown Prince Sultan, is also severely ill.

“We’ve focused on Nayef and a next generation, who seem to understand a lot better what’s got to happen,” said one American official, referring to the Saudi interior minister, whom some Saudi experts view as a conservative who would take the kingdom backward, while others say that is a misreading and that he is more aligned with members of the next generation of Saudi princes who favor reforms.

In a relationship where the United States hardly has the upper hand, so far the discussions have largely steered clear of democratization and focused on safer subjects : energy and foreign threats.

Saudi Arabia has helped stabilize world energy prices by increasing its crude-oil production to make up for the loss of Libya’s oil.

In the case of Bahrain, the senior official said, the administration’s goal has been to enlist the Saudis’ help to open up the Bahraini political system without overthrowing the government. Instead, the arrival of the Saudi-led troops underscored the approach advocated by Riyadh: Crack down and allow no room for dissent.

At a press briefing on Monday, the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, carefully avoided direct criticism of the Saudi-led entry of gulf forces into Bahrain, telling reporters that, in the view of the White House, “this is not an invasion of the a country.” But he added: “We’re calling on the Saudis, the other members of the G.C.C. countries, as well as the Bahraini government, to show restraint. And we believe that political dialogue is the way to address the unrest that has occurred in the region in Bahrain and in other countries, and not to, in any way, suppress it.”

Some officials say that in some ways the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia may grow closer, particularly on security and counterterrorism issues, where there has been increased cooperation in the months before the protests began in the Middle East.

John O. Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, speaks regularly with Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, his Saudi counterpart and the son of the interior minister, most recently last week about the political tumult in Yemen and the threat from Al Qaeda, an administration official said.

In the past several months, the Saudis have played a pivotal role in helping to thwart several terrorist plots. Prince Nayef alerted the Obama administration last October that bombs might be on cargo flights bound for the United States. A frantic search turned up two shipments containing printer cartridges packed with explosives, sent from Yemen by the Qaeda affiliate, and addressed to synagogues in Chicago.

The American military’s longstanding ties to the Saudi armed forces have also weathered the recent diplomatic tempest. More than 4,100 Saudi and American soldiers conducted a training exercise in northwestern Saudi Arabia last week.

Demonstrating to Iran that the Saudi-American alliance remains strong has emerged as a critical objective of the Obama administration. King Abdullah, who was widely quoted in the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks as warning that the United States had to “cut off the head of the snake” in Iran, has led the effort to contain Iran’s ambitions to become a major regional power. In the view of White House officials, any weakness or chaos inside Saudi Arabia would be exploited by Iran.

For that reason, several current and former senior American intelligence and regional experts warned that in the months ahead, the administration must proceed delicately when confronting the Saudis about social and political reforms.

”Over the years, the U.S.-Saudi relationship has been fraught with periods of tension over the strategic partnership,” said Ellen Laipson, president of the Stimson Center, a public policy organization. “Post-September 11 was one period, and the departure of Mubarak may be another, when they question whether we are fair-weather friends.”

Anxiety in Japan grows as rescue workers find more bodies

In the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan.
--Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Rescue workers scoured tangled and displaced piles of debris Tuesday, searching for survivors, as crews struggled to keep control at a damaged nuclear plant on what is now the fifth day of the developing disaster in Japan.

Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami killed thousands, based on official and Japanese media reports, but an exact accounting of the disaster remains hidden beneath widespread damage that rescuers are only beginning to unearth.
The confirmed death toll, growing every few hours, reached 1,897 on Monday. But that didn't account for the thousands of bodies Japan's Kyodo News Agency said had been found in the Miyagi Prefecture on Japan's northeast coast. The number of dead is expected to rise as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas.
At least 3,002 people were still missing Monday, the National Police Agency said. Public broadcaster NHK reported that 450,000 people were living in shelters.At the same time, officials are fighting to contain a nuclear emergency. The earthquake and tsunami led to problems at three of the country's nuclear power plants.
An "explosive impact" occurred Tuesday morning at the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, a day after a hydrogen explosion rocked another reactor, the plant's owner said.
An explosion in a building housing the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant injured 11 workers Monday. A similar explosion over the weekend occurred in the No. 1 reactor.
Yukio Edano, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, said he could not rule out the possibility of a meltdown at all three troubled reactors. While sea water was being pumped into the reactors in an effort to prevent further damage, "It cannot necessarily be called a stable situation," Edano said early Tuesday.

In Tokyo, where many trains were not running or were severely delayed because of power outages, residents worried about the threat of more aftershocks as they started their workweek Monday.
"It didn't really feel safe going to an empty office," said Tokyo resident Mia Moore, citing the ongoing tremors that continue to rattle the city every few hours. "People want to stay with their families at this time to recover, really. It's quite exhausting feeling so nervous all the time. I think people want to get back to normality as soon as they can."
But normalcy seems a distant memory across the hardest-hit region of Japan. NHK, citing police and disaster management officials, reported that 63,000 buildings had been damaged, more than 6,000 of them obliterated.
In Miyagi Prefecture, rescue workers sifted through mountains of debris, and hope for survivors appeared to dim.
In the Sendai area, where buildings were disintegrated by rushing water within seconds during the tsunami, a bizarre mix of sport-utility vehicles, cabinets, sofas, a taxi and a doll were heaped in a pile outside the remnants of a house.
Solemn residents waited in lines that stretched blocks for food, water and gas. Despite the devastation surrounding them, the crowds appeared calm and orderly, even as stores rationed what they would sell to individual people.
At a shelter in Sendai, a shell-shocked man who fled the tsunami would not let go of his 3-week-old infant. "I have to protect my children. I have to protect my children," he said.
Another survivor wiped away tears after someone she barely knew gave her food and water.
Cold weather has increased the hardship for disaster victims and rescuers. Rescuers report that some victims have been exposed to cold weather and water, in some cases for days. Conditions are expected to worsen, with temperatures forecast to drop below freezing by Wednesday across portions of the earthquake zone, accompanied by snow, heavy rain and the threat of mudslides.
About 15,000 people have been rescued, Kyodo News reported Monday, citing Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. On Sunday, he called on people to pull together and face sacrifices during what he called the "toughest and most difficult crisis for Japan" since the end of World War II.
Among the residents rescued was a woman carried into a shelter by a civil defense solider, NHK reported. After he gingerly set her down, the woman rose to her feet with some difficulty and bowed to the soldier, told him she was all right, bowed again and then collected herself to briefly tell her story, paraphrased by an NHK interpreter:
"She had been waiting for help all night, outside. She had been washed away by the wave. ... The moment she opened the door of the house, the water flooded in. ... She grabbed hold of a tree and hung on, hung on for dear life with the water all around her. A ... floor mat floated by, and she grabbed it and held on to that."
As the woman spoke in Japanese, the interpreter's voice trembled in English: "Her daughter was washed away. She was washed away, and she has not found her."
The problem of trying to keep Japan's large, modern industrial economy running added to the difficulties facing the nation.
With the imperiled Fukushima plant offline, Tokyo Electric Power said it was expecting a shortfall of about 25 percent capacity, which necessitated blackouts. Up to 45 million people will be affected by the rolling outages, which will last until April 8.
Experts predict that the earthquake and tsunami will rank among the costliest natural disasters on record.
Japan's central bank announced plans Monday to inject 15 trillion yen ($186 billion) into the economy to reassure global investors of the stability of Japanese financial markets and banks.
Still, Japanese markets dropped sharply Monday, the first trading day since the disaster. The benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 6.18 percent, marking the largest single-day fall since September 2008 after the collapse of Lehman Brothers during the financial crisis.
A massive emergency response operation is under way in northern Japan, with world governments and international aid groups coming together to bring relief to the beleaguered island nation. Ninety-one countries and regions and six international organizations have offered assistance, according to the Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Friday's quake was the strongest in recorded history to hit Japan, according to U.S. Geological Survey records that date to 1900. The USGS revised the magnitude of the quake upward to 9.0 on Monday, from 8.9. The world's largest recorded quake took place in Chile on May 22, 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5, the agency said.

Sindh recommends Shahbaz Bhatti for Nobel Prize

KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly (SA) has passed a unanimous resolution tabled by the lawmaker of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from minority Salim Khurshid Khokhar recommending the name of the deceased federal minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti for Nobel Prize. According to the resolution the federal government should recommend the name of Shahbaz Bhatti for the Nobel Prize.

The PPP lawmaker said Bhatti worked for the equality of rights in the country and promotes religious harmony and democracy. He said Bhatti promoted the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

PPP minority lawmaker Pitamber Sewani also signed the resolution. Khokhar said security of minorities is the guarantee of bright future of the country. He said all minorities would fight terrorism under leadership of President Zardari.

Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro has put the resolution in the House and it was unanimously passed. Pakistan Muslim League-Functional lawmaker Marvi Rashdi objected over the usage of word ‘Shaheed’ for Bhatti and said that only Muslims can be called Shaheed. PPP minister for Katchi Abadis Rafiq Engineer replied that they can use word of martyrs for everyone and its translation in Urdu is ‘Shaheed’.

A resolution was earlier tabled in the Sindh Assembly session by the PPP’s Power Minister Shazia Marri for expressing solidarity with the people of Japan over the devastating tsunami, which hit the country.

She said the SA is deeply affected by the devastating tsunami that caused massive destruction in Japan and extends its deepest sympathies to the Japanese people since World War II. She appreciated the support extended to Japan by the international community, including the president of Pakistan. Marri said Pakistani nation during these tough times would continue its support to the Japanese people. Later, the House unanimously passed the resolution.

Boys’ school bombed in Landikotal by ignorant Taliban

A government primary school for boys was blown up in Changai area of Landikotal.
Unidentified terrorists blew up one more government primary school for boys at Rehmatullah village in Changai in Khyber Landikotal in the wee hours of Monday. Administration and local sources, while confirming the two blasts inside the primary school building, said that four rooms of the old primary school were blown up completely whereas the boundary walls and the veranda suffered slight damages. Khasadar Force officials arrested the watchmen of the school, Hayatullah and Wajid.
The total number of schools destroyed in Landikotal has reached thirteen as the figure of the destroyed schools in the far-flung areas of Bazaar Zakha Khel is yet to be confirmed.

Pakistan's Army Is the Real Obstacle to Peace

Wall Street Journal
Two months after Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan's Punjab province, was assassinated by his own bodyguard for criticizing the country's blasphemy law, the only Christian member of the Pakistani cabinet, Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, was killed for doing his job—advocating protection of the country's two million Christians.

Taseer's assassination prompted a debate: Was the blasphemy law, introduced by Gen. Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s in his bid to "Islamize" Pakistan, being exploited for mundane interests? Was it leading to witch hunts? Bhatti's death should prompt Pakistanis to ask themselves an equally disquieting question: Does Pakistan have a future as a successful nation state, at peace with itself and the world?

The civilian government's reaction to Bhatti's death has outraged many Muslim and Christian Pakistanis. As after Taseer's murder, it retreated into vague bromides. At Bhatti's funeral in Islamabad, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani vowed to "do the utmost to bring the culprits to justice." There was no mention of who these culprits were (the Tehreek-e-Taliban of Punjab has claimed responsibility), no mention of the ideologies, religious parties and jihadi organizations fueling their actions, and no mention of the blasphemy laws that Bhatti had campaigned against.

But the deaths of Taseer and Bhatti are the outcome not just of the Pakistan People's Party abandonment of the principles that once made it an appealing, popular force. They are the result of a decades-long imbalance in governance and power, which now has the PPP and other liberal and centrist civilians cowering in fear.

The failure of the political classes to initiate democratic, constitutional reform after Pakistan's separation from India in 1947 enabled the military to quickly define "national interest" as an anti-India ideology. This ideology, a type of Islamic nationalism, is one from which the Pakistan military has reaped rich dividends. It has kept civilian politicians on the defensive and the people numbed.

With the onset of the Cold War the U.S. armed Pakistan for its own strategic purposes. When the Pakistani army undertook adventures creating instability in the region—wars with India and attempts, eventually successful, to build nuclear weapons—the U.S. suspended military and economic aid.

But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 put the Pentagon and the Pakistani army on good terms again. This time, Gen. Zia extracted huge sums from Washington: Pakistan's army was paid billions of dollars in direct correlation to its usefulness in organizing an anti-Soviet Islamic jihad. The '90s saw a nasty separation—aid was suspended again—and a reunion followed after 9/11, when the U.S. needed Pakistan's help in Afghanistan.

Now Zia's "children" have come of age. Extremists of all stripes—the Taliban and the mujahedeen—roam the streets of Lahore and Karachi unchecked by the security agencies who once thought it would be a good idea to arm them. Anger and frustration fueled by inequality are making young Pakistanis turn to religion for answers.

As in Egypt, over 60% of the population of Pakistan is under 25. Unlike Egypt, they want an Islamic revolution, not a democratic one. Salman Taseer's police bodyguard—all of 26 years old—killed him for "insulting" the Prophet Muhammad. (The governor had criticized a manmade blasphemy law, not the Prophet, but his assassin didn't know the difference).

Slowly, the U.S. is beginning to understand that Pakistan's existential confusion is the result of the grand strategic designs of the Pakistani military, an army that has carried out three coups to thwart the development of a democratic political system. In the process, Pakistan's civilian leadership has been eliminated—Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto hanged, Benazir Bhutto, Taseer and Bhatti assassinated—the country dismembered, ethnic subnationalism, regional tension and inequalities aggravated.

The U.S. must support civilian supremacy and recognize the Pakistani army's game for what it is. Alarmed by the idea that if America leaves Afghanistan its U.S. funds will dwindle, the military is loath to crush the Islamist warriors who can be "calibrated" to deliver strategic value to it. Until the U.S. recognizes this, Pakistan's military will continue to hold the world to ransom

Frontiers of expression have shrunk in 'democratic' Pakistan: Shehrbano Taseer

The boundaries of expression have shrunk in Pakistan, Shehrbano Taseer, daughter of slain former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, has said.

Both Taseer and Minorities Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were assassinated within a gap of two months for their vocal support for reforms of Pakistan's draconian blasphemy laws.

"In a country that calls itself a democracy, the frontiers of expression have shrunk," The Express Tribune quoted Shehrbano, as saying on an Express 24/7 show, commenting on the murders.

She said that everyone is to be blamed collectively for the assassinations of Taseer and Bhatti, adding that if it were not for the current or the previous government appeasing terrorists, these shocking incidents would not have taken place.

Shehrbano said that she felt the media was also responsible for Taseer's assassination because it acted irresponsibly by giving undue space to "hot-headed right wingers, screaming bloody murder," instead of starting a debate on the controversial blasphemy laws.

Shehrbano revealed that her family had received several threatening letters after her father's assassination, and vowed to continue living in Pakistan despite requests from friends, urging her family to leave the country.

"We are Pakistanis; we will build our lives in Pakistan; we will live to better the lives of Pakistanis. We will not go anywhere," she maintained.

The slain governor's daughter said that she does not live in fear because that is what the terrorists capitalise on.

"I am not going to give my country to them on a silver platter," she said.

On a positive note, Shehrbano said she sees "unwavering hope in Pakistan," and if everyone was to work for a better Pakistan, they would see the fruits in the next 20 years or so.

Is Saudi Arabia Supporting Hezbollah

Gulf Issues center mentioned on Monday that outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri was reproached by Saudi King Abdallah ben Abdel Aziz during their secret meeting in Riyadh on March 6.

The Saudi King expressed his discontent regarding Hariri's campaign against Hezbollah's weapons and voiced concern regarding Hezbollah's reaction to the campaign, and its repercussions on Prime Minister Designate Najib Mikati and the Saudi-Syrian relations.

The center quoted a report published by "Gulf" newspaper as saying that the Saudi King criticized the unjustified campaign Hariri launched against Hezbollah, and said the Saudi Kingdom may not be able to handle its repercussions.

The sources denied the oil-rich Kingdom was supporting the campaign and said Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, was playing a negative role in this regard.

The sources added that the GCC's position regarding Premier Designate Mikati, announced last week, was a message that the Saudi Kingdom was not behind Hariri's campaign and the Gulf countries are committed to the Lebanese sovereignty. Moreover, the sources reported that the campaign against Hariri's owned company "Saudi Oger" is a message to the outgoing PM to keep the situation in control without endangering the Saudi interests.

The politics of stability in Bahrain

It should come as no surprise that Saudi Arabia has come to the aid of Bahrain's royal family with about one thousand troops crossing the causeway between the two countries. If more troops are needed to ensure that the al-Khalifa regime does not fall, the Saudis will oblige. Put simply, Riyadh cannot tolerate Sh'ia domination of its offshore island, whether or not the al-Khalifas remain in power.

A Bahrain that is ruled by its Sh'ia majority is one-third of the ultimate nightmare for the Sunni rulers of the desert kingdom. The other two-thirds are a revolt by the Sh'ia majority in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province, which could spill over from the troubles in neighboring Bahrain and a massive influx of Yemenis, many of whom are adherents of the Zaidi branch of Islam, and have little in common with Saudi Wahhabisim.

Stability in Bahrain is therefore crucial for the long-term future of the al-Saud family as rulers of their eponymous kingdom. Indeed, Saudi Arabia's rulers fully recognize that because memories in the Middle East are very long, the fact that the Hejaz was a separate Arabian kingdom as recently as the 1920s until it was conquered by Ibn Saud and merged with his kingdom of the Nejd means that the break-up of their country is hardly impossibility.

Other Gulf States, notably Kuwait, whose rulers are close to the al-Khalifa, may join the Saudi effort to stabilize Bahrain. So might the UAE, which shares Saudi fears of Iranian domination of the island, which was once an Iranian province, and which continues to smart over the Iranian seizure of its islands of Abu Musa and the Tunbs in 1971.

Washington cannot sit idly by as these events take place. The Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain, as is the naval component of Central Command. The departure of the Navy from Bahrain would mark a signal victory for Iran, even, as is likely, the fleet were to find a new home elsewhere in the Gulf. Washington has no choice but to support the Saudi intervention.

Unfortunately, Washington appears to be willing to offer little more than words, and its words no longer carry much weight. The administration's vacillation over Libya, coupled with the imminent withdrawal of combat troops in Iraq -- where Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is becoming ever more authoritarian -- has underscored a growing perception of America's declining influence in the region.

Whatever happens in Bahrain will hardly change that perception. If, as is likely, the Saudis shore up the Bahraini regime, many will view the outcome as a victory for repression, and, given Qaddafi's recent successes against the rebels, a sign of the hollowness of American pronouncements about democracy. On the other hand, if some outside chance, the Bahraini regime falls to the Sh'ia opposition, the fruits of victory will be reaped by Tehran, not Washington, since one of the new government's first acts would be to expel the U.S. Navy.

One can therefore only conclude that, regardless of the outcome in Bahrain, the United States may be headed for even tougher times in the Middle East than those it has experienced in the past few years.

Foreign troops enter Bahrain as protests continue

Foreign troops have begun to arrive in the strategically and financially important Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, following a month of citizen protests, the Bahrain News Agency reported Monday.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain's giant neighbor, appears to have provided at least some of the troops, who come under the banner of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The Saudi state news agency said the government had responded to Bahrain's request for help in view of the importance of security there.
According to the state news agency of the United Arab Emirates, it "decided to send a security force to keep the peace in the Kingdom of Bahrain," at that country's request.Dr. Anwar Mohammed Qerqash, UAE minister for foreign affairs, said that this is a part of his country's responsibility within the Gulf Cooperation Council in order to bring "security and stability to the region."
The mission is being called Operation Desert Shield -- the same name the United States used after Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait in 1990.
The arrival of the troops follows a day of clashes between protesters and security forces that resulted in more than 1,000 people hospitalized, human rights activists said.
Protests have swept the Arab world this year, toppling the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, but it's not clear that any country had called in foreign troops for help before the GCC forces arrived in Bahrain on Monday.
It is not clear exactly how many foreign security troops have entered Bahrain or where they are from. Various parts of the Bahraini government referred CNN questions to other government offices on Monday.
An eyewitness told CNN that dozens of armored vehicles and buses full of soldiers crossed from Saudi Arabia into Bahrain on Monday afternoon via the causeway linking the two countries.
The Gulf Cooperation Council is a group of six Gulf states -- Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar -- that encourages cooperation among members in a number of areas, including the economy and security.
Also on Monday, a key part of the capital was taken over by protesters, a Human Rights Watch official told CNN.
About 100 demonstrators blocked access to the Bahrain Financial Harbour with barricades such as trash cans and cinder blocks, in effect shutting down the commercial district, Faraz Sanei said.
There was no police presence, he added.
Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid al-Khalifa said the demonstrations are not peaceful.
"What we are witnessing in Manama is no peaceful protest. ... It's (a) wanton, gangster style takeover of people's lives," he said on Twitter.
A pro-government group of lawmakers is urging the king of Bahrain to impose martial law for three months in the wake of the protests.
Protests on Sunday appeared to have been among the most violent since police tried to clear the capital's Pearl Roundabout in February, leaving seven people dead, according to demonstrators.
Most of Sunday's injured suffered gas-related injuries, including burns and breathing problems, according to Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
Doctors and nurses were among the injured. At least five people were in critical condition and at least two people lost their eyes because of bullet injuries, he said.
Manama, the capital, was in effect sealed off Monday, journalists there told CNN. The highway stretching from the Pearl Roundabout to the Bahrain Financial Harbour was blocked by trees and other debris.
The government Sunday denied accusations that unjustified force was used against protesters at the harbor, along a key highway and at Bahrain University.
Britain's Foreign Office warned against all travel to the Gulf kingdom Sunday until further notice, saying, "The risk of further outbreaks of violence has increased."
The nation's Independent Bloc of lawmakers called on Bahrain security forces to intervene to protect national security and stability, the Bahrain News Agency reported later Sunday. The bloc is made up of the 22 pro-government members of the lower house of the legislature.
"Extremist movements are resorting to escalation and sectarian mobilization, which led to an unprecedented disruption of security and hostile sectarian polarization at health and educational institutions," the group said in a statement.
The members of parliament asked King Hamad to enforce a curfew and deploy security forces across the country.
During protests in the tiny island nation, moderates have been demanding a constitutional monarchy and hardliners have called for the abolition of the royal family altogether.
The country has a Shiite Muslim majority population, but its rulers are Sunni Muslims.