Protests spreads to some unexpected places …. is Bahrain in a pickle?

As Bahrain enters its fourth day of protest, I’ve put together the following quick items below, mostly extracted from the Congressional Research Service report dated January 5, 2011, available via the website of the Federation of American Scientists.

Bahrain is a tiny archipelago of 33 islands with an area of 257 square miles, larger than the Maldives but slightly smaller than Singapore.  Take a look at its neighbors.

Map from CIA World Factbook/Regional Map

  • Its total population as of April 2010 is at 1,234,596 with 54% or 666,172  composed of expatriates.
  • Has a vibrant middle and working class, largely composed of majority Shiite Muslims — about 70% of the citizenry who are envious of the “ownership class” mostly of Sunni Muslims.
  • About 25% of the population is age 14 or younger.
  • The Al Khalifa family, which is Sunni Muslim and generally not as religiously conservative as the leaders of neighboring Saudi Arabia, has ruled Bahrain since 1783.
  • The country is 81% Muslim, 9% Christian, 10% account for other religions
  • The U.S. Embassy in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, opened in September 1971. J. Adam Ereli was sworn in as the 15th United States Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain on June 28, 2007. He is due for a rotation but is still listed in state.gov as US Ambassador to Bahrain. US Embassy Manama currently lists Stephanie Williams as Chargé d’Affaires.
  • Bahrain (and UAE) have been the only Gulf states to deploy their own forces to provide aid to Afghanistan.
  • On March 2002, President Bush (Presidential Determination 2002-10) designated Bahrain a “major non-NATO ally (MNNA),” a designation that facilitates U.S. arms sales.
  • In September 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA). Implementing legislation was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169). In 2005, total bilateral trade was about $780 million, suggesting that trade has expanded significantly following the FTA. In 2009, the United States exported $668 million worth of goods to Bahrain, and imported $463 million in goods from that country.
  • February 2008 marked the 60th anniversary of a U.S. naval command presence in Bahrain; MIDEASTFOR (U.S. Middle East Force), its successor, NAVCENT (naval component of U.S. Central Command), and the Fifth Fleet (reconstituted in June 1995) have been headquartered there. The Fifth Fleet headquarters is a command facility that now covers over 100 acres, and about 2,300 U.S. personnel, mostly Navy, are assigned there.
  • The US Congress and successive Administrations, citing Bahrain’s limited income, have supported military assistance to Bahrain’s small force. The main recipient of such assistance is the relatively small Bahrain Defense Force (BDF), which has about 13,000 personnel (plus about 1,200 National Guard).
  • Bahrain’s total government budget was about $5.6 billion in 2008.
  • In December 2008, the government made numerous arrests of Shiite demonstrators and accused some of being part of a foreign-inspired “plot” to destabilize Bahrain.
  • Allegations of torture against Shiite opposition figures are widespread.
  • Former Iranian parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri, now an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, referred to Bahrain as Iran’s 14th province.


Here is the February 16 notice from US Embassy Manama:

As of 1600 hours local time on 16 February, there are no major infrastructure disruptions and demonstrators are neither threatening nor targeting westerners. We are not currently advising extra precautions beyond those listed in our last Demonstration Notice, the Country Specific Information for Bahrain, or the Worldwide Caution available at http://bahrain.usembassy.gov. We will continue to monitor the situation and send out further information as warranted.

Demonstrations are currently expected at:

  • An ongoing demonstration at the Pearl Roundabout remains peaceful but has disrupted traffic in the area. This demonstration is expected to continue at least through the coming weekend.
  • A pro-Government demonstration is scheduled from 1500 – 1700, originating near the Diplomat Hotel, crossing the Shaikh Hamad Causeway along Airport Ave and ending in the vicinity of the airport. Expect heavy traffic delays.

Read the whole thing here.

Related items:
CRS: Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy | January 5, 2011 (via FAS)

WIKILEAKED: US embassy cables: Guide to Bahrain’s politics

Reuters: Factbox: Demands of Bahrain’s protesters


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US Mission Mexico: ICE Special Agents Killed/Wounded at Fake Roadblock on Road to Monterrey

Special Agent Jaime Zapata killed, Special Agent Victor Avila wounded

ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata was killed Tuesday, February 15 when gunmen fired on the diplomatic plate SUV he was riding in an apparent ambushed at a fake roadblock. LAT reported that Zapata and another agent, Victor Avila who was wounded in the gunfire but survived the attack were driving from Mexico City toward the northern city of Monterrey when they were attacked in the state of San Luis Potosi.

LAT also says that U.S. Immigration and Customs officials said Wednesday that Zapata was a native of Brownsville, Texas, and four-year veteran of the department on loan from the Laredo, Texas, ICE office. He and the Agent Avila were attached temporarily to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

Here is a statement from DHS Secretary Napolitano on February 15, 2011:

“I’m deeply saddened by the news that earlier today, two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents assigned to the ICE Attaché office in Mexico City were shot in the line of duty while driving between Mexico City and Monterrey by unknown assailants.

One agent was critically wounded in this attack and died from his injuries. The second agent was shot in the leg and remains in stable condition.

U.S. law enforcement agencies are working closely with Mexican authorities who are investigating the shooting to ensure the perpetrators of this unconscionable crime are captured as quickly as possible.

Let me be clear: any act of violence against our ICE personnel – or any DHS personnel – is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety. The full resources of our Department are at the disposal of our Mexican partners in this investigation. We remain committed in our broader support for Mexico’s efforts to combat violence within its borders.

I ask that you join me in praying for our fallen and wounded colleagues. Please keep them, and all our DHS personnel serving abroad or in harm’s way, in your thoughts.”

On February 16, Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder also decided to establish a joint task force between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice “to work with Mexico in tracking down the perpetrators and swiftly bring them to justice.” The joint task force will be led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“This joint task force reflects our commitment to bring the investigatory and prosecutorial power of the U.S. Government to bear as we work with the Mexican Government to bring these criminals to justice,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the ICE agents’ families and loved ones, as we are reminded of the risks and sacrifices undertaken every day by the men and women on the frontlines in protecting the safety and security of the American people.”

“The murder of Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the shooting of another ICE agent provide a sad reminder of the dangers American law enforcement officers face every day,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “Working with our Mexican counterparts, we have already launched an aggressive investigation, and this joint task force will ensure that every available resource is used to bring the perpetrators of this terrible crime to justice.”

The LAT adds that ICE has between 25 and 30 agents in Mexico. Agents also have worked with the government to train Mexicans in advanced investigative techniques used in customs and smuggling investigations.

We’re not going to hear that these men were victims of a random act of violence and were not targeted, are we?


Updated 2/17 @11:28 pm

On February 17, US Consulate General Monterrey issued the following Warden Message:

On February 15, one U.S. government employee was murdered and another seriously wounded in an attack while traveling in a U.S. government vehicle on Mexican Highway 57 near Santa Maria del Rio, San Luis Potosi.  The Mexican government has assured the U.S. Embassy that all necessary actions to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice will be taken.

American citizens residing in, visiting, or traveling through the geographic area bordered by, and including, the central Mexican cities of San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Leon, Guanajuato, Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende should maintain a heightened sense of alert while the Mexican government investigation into this incident continues.  Americans in this area should monitor local news and information to stay informed about situations that could affect their security. 

The U.S. Mission has instructed its employees and their families to defer travel to the State of San Luis Potosi, effective immediately.  U.S. citizens should defer unnecessary travel to the State.


The most recent data available from state.gov indicates that of the 18 US posts in Mexico, the following six have been designated danger pay posts:

Ciudad Juarez       20%
Monterrey            20%
Matamoros          15%
Nuevo Laredo     15%
Tijuana                15%
Nogales                5%


The danger pay allowance is designed to provide additional compensation above basic compensation to all U.S. Government civilian employees, including Chiefs of Mission, for service at places in foreign areas where there exist conditions of civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions which threaten physical harm or imminent danger to the health or well-being of an employee.  These conditions do not include acts characterized chiefly as economic crime.