Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: Bahrain

Friday, February 18, 2011


Of course I have watched with keen interest the events happening in the Middle East and North Africa for the last few weeks. I am a Westerner living and working in the area and can't help but be concerned of the ultimate effect it will have on my security and near-term way of life. I don't intend to sound selfish but I am only human and these thoughts naturally cross our minds about individual survival.

Seems a wildfire of popular protests have ignited in neighboring areas, the sparks blown about by the strong winds of dissatisfaction of the common folks, international press coverage, internet social networks and yes, maybe some international interference by another neighbor.

My Opinion of Iran's Government
First there was the ignition of tender wood in Beirut and Tunisia, then Yemen, Egypt, Libya and now Bahrain. If I forgot any, let me know, I will give full credit. Let us not forget the Iranian government's saber rattling of late which could have very well been the carelessly but intentionally dropped lit match.

During all this regional turmoil the Iranians are currently brazenly sailing a naval battle group through the Suez Canal, a stunt not done by them in decades. It is rare that one sees such a vulgar display of power during a very sensitive time in the area. It is easy to see they want to be  the power over here!

Add this to the public videos of missile launches, announcements of nuclear capabilities (threats) and the covert videos of the Iranian government's fatal suppression of dissent by their own citizens, I think it is not a far stretch to figure out they are one of the reasons for instability in the region. They have a lot of money to donate to radicals and I believe the Iranian government instigates some of these actions. The coincidence of outrage in multiple countries simultaneously cannot be ignored. It seems orchestrated.

That being said, the disgruntled common man in these countries have a lot to be pissed-off about. They had the same rulers for decades in the most part and have see their lot in life decrease as their masters prospered more and more. Big mistake on the rulers' part. This sets up a pressure not unlike what causes earthquakes when the tectonic plates of the Earth slip and we are seeing the results of that destruction and rebirth now. An earthquake occurred in Cairo and Mubarek is beached.

The people do have power and we are seeing the demonstration of that when the common citizen feels he/she has nothing left to lose. Somewhat like a cornered tiger, someone will get hurt. My own country was violently fought for and won by the Patriots back in the day against its oppressors, they got fed up with the bullshit too. The will of the people will always win out eventually. Civil (r)evolution is inevitable when there are inequities and leaders have to realize that or they will continue to be blindsided by the force of their subjects.

This leads us to the disturbing troubles in Bahrain. It is one thing when people fight across town but quite another when they fight next door and I can hear the yelling from my house. Bahrain is an easy day's drive from my billet in the UAE and it is a little disconcerting to see the conflict so close.

Bahrain, A Days Drive, Yemen is Pissed Off and Close Too, I live in the UAE

Bahrain is an oil/natural gas rich kingdom and is a relatively liberal Muslim country, but not a member of OPEC.  No one wants for much. Apparently the recent rancor is due to differing sects of Islam. You see, the ruling class in the Kingdom of Bahrain is Sunni and most of the population is Shia. The Shia feel left out of the relative prosperity of the Kingdom and feel discriminated against by the ruling Sunnis. Most of the Shia sect are from Iran (some for many generations due to trade between the countries) and are the majority sect in that country. Call me crazy, but it seems easy to connect the dots.

Closer Look at Bahrain, Small but Important

Tanks in Bahrain

In addition, the US Navy's Fifth Fleet calls Bahrain home. That means huge tactical and strategic shifts of power in the region if there are significant changes in Bahrain.

As I said, I live in the UAE which is a leisurely day's drive or a 45 minute flight from Bahrain. The tensions in Bahrain are getting close to home but I am not worried for now, I am surprised it is happening there and hope cooler heads will prevail. Bahrain has alway been known as stable until now.

The UAE is one of the wealthiest nations in the world and the rulers are generous and good to its citizens, they seem OK. That is the key. I have been here since 2008 and it is a very well run country, I feel comfortable in the UAE.

There still exists a problem as Iran invaded three islands in the Arabian Gulf from the UAE in the 70's. Iran has fortresses built there now with anti-ship missile installations. The dispute is ongoing but has not been resolved to this day. Iran is the North Korea of the Middle East!

I am registered with the US Embassy and I understand there are contingency plans in case of emergency evacuation of American citizens. I may end up "haze gray and underway" on a US Navy ship again after all these years but I doubt it. I am not packing my bags yet but I am keeping much less cash in my local bank account just in case the sparks blow over this way.

One positive is that I have not seen any American flags burning in the streets or the POTUS hanged in effigy. I consider the lack off those very good signs

Travel Tip: On this (Western) side of the Gulf, the body of water between the Arabian peninsula and Iran is known as the ARABIAN Gulf, not the "P" Gulf word! It is considered very gauche and insulting to refer to it in the latter over here.


Karen said...

Thanks for the update on your condition and the free civics lesson. Take care!!!

Chuck said...

I remember friends talking about going to Bahrain when they were stationed in Saudi, because you could get alcohol there. I also remember some Bahraini servicemen in my tech school class for some type of avionics, they seemed like nice guys. I hope everything gets settled peaceablyy.

Dave said...

Watching this situation with interest Ace. Although on local Oz TV and newspapers you wouldn't even know it was going on...... at least I can watch the latest info on Al Jazeera News in English on cable TV....

Paraglider said...

In Qatar, I'm slightly closer to it even than you. The authorities have bungled it big time by using excessive violence and, in my opinion, have probably guaranteed that the protests will now push through to some tangible outcome. Minority regimes can't last forever.

Ace said...

I think that Bahrain authorities learned their lesson and have backed down on the heavy-handedness. Cooler heads prevailed it seems and conflict is down.

Colonel "K" in Libya is taking a different tact and his whole world may topple. He is seriously pissing his folks off.

Iraq even saw protests today.

71nasta said...

you are an unconscious part of usa imperialism..what really are you american militars doing in persian golf ?are you arabs?are you indigenius?or your ancestors come from this region?why do you believe that the oil belongs to you?what really are you doing in Abu Dahbi?have someone elected you as their goverment?...Bahrein people are fighting for freedom against you ..occupiers..FREE PLANET

Ace said...

First of all, I doubt you are who you appear to be. You refer to the body of water surrounding Bahrain as the "Persian Gulf". Anyone who has lived in the Gulf States knows that it is known as the "Arabian Gulf" and it is a big insult to call it anything else.

That being said, expats are not occupiers, we are legal invitees of your government who is trading oil for our expertise and money. If all the expats of the region packed up and went home, you would have the freedom to see those countries wither, die and revert to a 19th century level of bare existence.

Be careful what you wish for!