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Wednesday, March 16, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Shi'ites, supplied by Iran, control most of Bahrain, 'shooting back' at Saudi forces

ABU DHABI — The Shi'ite opposition has taken over most of Bahrain.


Arab and Western diplomats said the Shi'ites, believed backed by Iran, have gained control of most of Bahrain over the last two weeks. They said the Sunni kingdom has lost authority over the country with the exception of parts of Manama as well as military bases and energy facilities.

"Right now, there is chaos in Manama and the countryside is firmly in Shi'ite hands," a diplomat said. "The Shi'ites also control the coast and are believed to be receiving supplies from Iran."

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The diplomats said the Sunni kingdom was on the verge of collapse. They said King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa has become a figurehead and the regime was being run by his son, Crown Prince Salman.

For his part, Salman has been opposed by the military leadership in Bahrain. The sources said the military command has been pressing for an immediate crackdown on the Shi'ite opposition in cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

At this point, about 4,000 Saudi troops were reported in Bahrain, including a battalion from a special Salafist force, Middle East Newsline reported. The diplomats said the Saudis have deployed the U.S.-origin S-70 Black Hawk helicopter as well as the French-origin AMX-10 main battle tank and blocked all routes to the King Fahd Causeway, which connects Bahrain to the Saudi kingdom.

On March 15, a Saudi Army sergeant was killed by Shi'ite gunmen in Manama. The sources said the Saudis have deployed forces around government buildings, major businesses and the royal palace in Bahrain.

"The Saudis thought they could intimidate Shi'ites, but they are shooting back," another diplomat said. "This could get extremely bloody over the next 48 hours."

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