Report: Saudi action in Bahrain 'at odds' with Obama's policy of dialogue

Friday, March 18, 2011   E-Mail this story   Free Headline Alerts

WASHINGTON Saudi Arabia has deployed U.S.-trained and -equipped troops in Bahrain, a report said.

"From the perspective of the Obama administration, the Saudi action is at odds with U.S. policy, which has encouraged political dialogue." the report said.

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy said King Abdullah has approved the deployment of the Saudi Arabian National Guard to Bahrain. The institute, in a report by analyst Simon Henderson, said SANG has brought at least 1,000 officers and 150 combat vehicles.

"The soldiers themselves appear to hail from the Saudi Arabian National Guard, possibly constituting a military police unit rather than paramilitary forces of the Saudi Ministry of Interior," the report, titled "Bahrain's Crisis: Saudi Forces Intervene," said.

Over the last three years, the United States has been training and equipping SANG in a program reported at nearly $10 billion. The program was meant to turn the nearly 100,000-member force into a veritable military under the direct control of Abdullah.

The SANG deployment in Bahrain was said to include U.S.-origin light-armored vehicles and other platforms. The Saudis have reinforced Bahrain's meager army in the crackdown on the Shi'ite opposition.

Henderson, regarded as an expert on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region, asserted that the SANG deployment would elicit an Iranian response. He said Riyad was concerned over unrest among the reported two million Shi'ites in Saudi Arabia.

"Riyad has two fears: that unrest among Bahraini Shi'ites will spread to Saudi Arabia's own two million Shi'ites, and that any political concessions won by Bahraini Shi'ites will be demanded also by their Saudi brethren," the report said.

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