Tanks rolled into Pearl Square, Manama, early Thursday, Feb. 17, personally commanded by King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in full military regalia, hours after his police firing live ammunition and tear gas failed to break up the tent city set up by protesters against his rule. At least four protesters were killed and dozens injured.
The monarch has divided his small 9,000-strong army into three parts, one for Pearl Square, a second to guard the Bahrain Petroleum Co. refinery which produces 267,000 barrels of oil a day and forms the backbone of the Bahraini economy; and a third placed around the royal palace and the residential districts of the ruling elite.
Al-Khalifa has two major difficulties to crack: For the first time, the king's biggest Shiite party, al-Wefaq has joined up with all 10 opposition parties to coordinate their protest action. The Shiite party leader, Sheik Ali Salman, says he is not seeking to establish an Islamic regime in Manama like the one in Tehran. debkafile's sources say he is after one-man rule for himself and his words are about as reliable as the pledges of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to eschew a role in government.
But the Bahraini ruler's most acute problem is that while the Arabic and world media lump the protest movement in his kingdom with the pro-democracy uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, it is not the same in that it does not just represent genuine people power fighting an autocratic regime for reforms, but is fomented from Tehran.
Iran's objective is to overthrow the Al-Khalifa regime and replace it with the first pro-Iranian government in the Arabian Gulf region. A Shiite regime in Manama will stir the Shiite minorities to revolt in other oil-rich Gulf states – and especially in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where they make up around one-fifth of the population.
In Tehran itself, meanwhile, debkafile's Iranian sources report that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad early Thursday conferred with Revolutionary Guards and Basij leaders on ways to further crack down on opposition protests after two days of harsh measures. Since Monday, 1,400 protesters have been arrested and their whereabouts are unknown. At least two died of bullet wounds.
The leaders of Iran's Islamic regime fear that the youngsters in Iranian cities will catch fire from the uprisings in Arab countries and be willing to fight for its overthrow.
As a key deterrent, an increase in the number of executions of dissidents was agreed between Ahmadinejad,
most of his aides, Prosecutor General Mohseni-eEjehee, the commander Internal Security Forces, Mohammad Reza Radan Mohammad Reza Naghdi, and the ultra-radical Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, Chairman of the Constitution Committee.
This measure later won the support of Ali Larijani, Speaker of the Majlis, who on Wednesday led 200 deputies in shouting for the two opposition Green Movement leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to be put to death.
debkafile's sources report: In the coming days, the world will be shown millions of young Iranians pouring into the streets of Tehran and other cities shouting pro-government slogans – alongside the executions of dozens of young Iranian democracy-seekers.
By killing them, the regime will try and break the back of the Mousavi-Karroubi opposition movement. Judging on past form, they will not be deterred by international condemnation.