February 17th, 2011
03:00 PM ET

Bahrain: What's at stake for America

Alan Silverleib

Washington (CNN) - Bahrain - a tiny group of islands where hot political rhetoric meets cold military reality.

As far as Washington is concerned, this small Persian Gulf kingdom may be where support for Middle East democracy dies. The loss of American military power that would accompany an overthrow of the regime of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is incalculable.

Nestled between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Bahrain is home to 1.2 million people. It's also home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet - a vital instrument for the Pentagon in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Fighter jets from carriers in the fleet provide close air support for American troops in Afghanistan.

The fleet is also a potential bulwark against a future nuclear Iran, analysts note.

"It's our most important strategic asset in the Persian Gulf," said Michael Rubin, a former Bahrain resident and Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

The security of America's naval presence in Bahrain was called into question when protests erupted there this week. Three people died and dozens were injured Thursday when security forces stormed a group of protesters. Witnesses described a blunt show of force, with police firing pellets and rubber bullets, as well as using tear gas.

Two other people died during disturbances earlier in the week.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Middle East • Raw Politics
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Chris

    When will the Western Hemisphere take charge of their future?? We are only depended on Middle Eastern oil because we want to, we have the Technology and the Products Here in North America to Reduce our dependency and even change Global Warming Now! This is only Politics and there is No truth to our dependency.We don't need to be Puppies, We as a people have the same purpose and power that we are seeing in the Countries of the Middle East. It only took Eastern Europe 20+ years to get to where they are, Now you expect these Countries to do it by Tomorrow??????

    February 17, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  2. Zar

    It also seems like the American government cares a lot less about democracy when its own interests are at stake. This should not be made about Iran.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm |
  3. Zar

    Can I just say Anderson that Michael Rubin's words that if the regime was toppled that "there is no question - no ifs, ands or buts - Bahrain would become an Iranian satellite, and the Fifth Fleet would be sent packing," is extremely inaccurate. I've lived there for 16 years and this has nothing to do with Iran. The shia majority of both countries don't even like each other.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  4. bobby harris

    anderson i am very concerned about the relationship between u.s. and Bahrain now as it looks disturbing, the attacks on people there is appaling.. i think the military from u.s. needs to evacuate any americans there from the u.s. embassy for safety now this is critical as it is,

    February 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  5. Cheryl

    I hope that we in the West are not being force fed one sided political propaganda by the media, I don't think we are but I just hope not. On the other hand; it is about time that the citizens of these political/royal dictatorships stand together and fight for their own causes instead of looking to the west. I am proud of the people of Egypt and Bahrain.

    With the technology available to the world there is no way that Tiananmen Sq. will occur again without worldwide outcry! These people have been pushed beyond what is emotionally, psychologically and physically acceptable and you are seeing the rabid response of people who have been "caged" for generations! They will not live in repression any longer while the powers that be, live a life of excess. To a great degree, they have my support.

    Edmonton Alberta, Canada

    February 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm |