Read today about the US commercial-military arrangements with West Asian governments. West Asia and the Middle East are the biggest customers of Amercian military equipment. Between 2006 and 2009, it sold about 50 billion dollars' worth of weaponry to the region. The Obama administration had notified the Congress earlier last year of purchases worth 100 billion dollars slated for 2009 and 2010.
The buyers of American military exports: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE - all of the areas currently in the throes of mass demonstrations. Deals run into billions of dollars, even in the smaller states like Bahrain. Saudi Arabia signed a deal last year with the US worth around 60 billion dollars.
The US has major military bases in the Middle East. Amongst them, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait are key bases.
In the course of the uprising in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia has sent in a thousand armed troops, with 500 additional troops from Qatar, under the banner of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The premise of the military intervention, this time to quell the demonstrations and protests, is the protection of oil investments. Bahrain is ruled by the Khalifas, a Sunni family in a Shia-majority country. The country is, as conceded by a former American general closely involved in the region, the best ally the US has. It hosts one of the most important US naval bases.
In 1994, in the face of popular demonstrations organized by the opposition to demand democratic reforms in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia had intervened as well.
Saudi Arabia has seen demonstrations by its Shia minority in the past, one of which was brutally suppressed. The last major protest to have taken place in the kingdom was in 1979, when a radical group took over the main masjid in Mecca. The state is completely undemocratic. It has no municipal elections (the round slated to have taken place earlier in the year got cancelled), the king appoints the 150-member parliament. He recently announced new unemployment and housing benefits worth billions of US dollars in the face of latent public "rage".
A conference was held in London yesterday. Other than the Western powers, Qatar is the first Gulf country to recognize the Libyan National Council based in Benghazi. Gaddafi's statements relating to the conference are incoherent. Rebel forces approached Sirte but retreated due to heavy shelling from pro-government forces lodged in the area. Qatar has been approached to sell Libyan oil.