According to Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, the 1,500 troops from the GCC member nations will not be leaving the nation any time soon. Khalifa insisted that the troops would remain until officials believed Iran did not pose a threat.
The comment about Iran is a reference to Bahraini officials’ repeated assertions that the pro-democracy protests in the nation, which at one point involved nearly a quarter of the nation’s population taking to the streets demanding reforms, is a “foreign plot.” Officials in the Sunni-ruled kingdom have regularly blamed Iran for popular unrest, which has largely been among the nation’s Shi’ite majority.
The Saudi-led GCC troops invaded in mid-March, and the regime declared martial law on March 15. Over the course of the past month, the troops have violently crushed the public protests, and the streets are largely quiet.
At the same time, the violence of the crackdown has spawned considerable resentment across the nation, which is likely to linger for years. The excuse of an “Iranian threat,” which WikiLeaks cables show has been a common government claim with no evidence to back it up, seems designed to ensure that the GCC troops will be on hand to continue moving against Shi’ite dissent over the long term.