Riots and Unrest Spread Throughout Arab Nations
espite security police efforts to dislodge them, anti-government protesters continued to occupy the main square of Manama, Bahrain Tuesday night, February 15, even after its ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa made a rare television appearance to regret two deaths which occurred at the hands of security forces, as he promised a full investigation.
Protests were also reported on Wednesday in Libya, starting in Benghazi, where eyewitnesses reports said police responded to stone-throwers with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets. Meanwhile, in Yemen, security forces stayed on alert after five days of disturbances by protesters demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh's removal from power. In a move reminiscent of the Egyptian Mubarak before his fall, Saleh has promised not to run again when his term ends in 2013.
Saudi Arabia is especially alarmed by the swelling protests in its small but strategic neighbor, Bahrain, site of the US Fifth Fleet headquarters for the Gulf region. For the first time, Sunni Muslims joined the majority Shiite protest against the rule of the al Khalifas who have been in power since 1971.
Shortly before dawn Wednesday, February 16, the Bahraini king secretly asked the Saudis for riot dispersal gear for his security forces to break up the protests. He also asked Saudi Arabia to place its security forces on the ready in case they got out of hand. Riyadh had already taken action out of fear that its own large Shiite minority in the eastern oil-rich regions of the kingdom catch fire from Bahrain. Tuesday, security and military forces were rushed to those regions and security stepped up at the oil facilities and ports of eastern Saudi Arabia, most of which are manned by Shiites who are close to their co-religionists over the bridge in Bahrain.
To the north, Jordan too was rocked by serious street protests, a serious menace to the throne because they were staged with increasing intensity by indigenous Bedouin tribes, the traditional backbone of the Hashemite royal house. Overnight, armed tribesmen blocked Highway No. 1, the main road into the capital Amman, demanding the restoration of lands, which they claim were stolen from them over the years by the royal family and the Jordanian government.
Last week, 36 Bedouin tribal chieftains sent a letter to King Abdullah II with demands that he cede some of his prerogatives including the right to appoint prime ministers and ministers, and cut down on extravagant royal spending, especially by Queen Rania, when more money should be diverted to helping the poor. Unrest against the Jordanian king has been simmering for weeks posing his rule with a double problem.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, visited Amman and met King Abdullah recently. Mullen also discussed the situation in Jordan, Israel's second peace partner, with Israeli leaders Sunday and Monday (February 13-14). Tuesday night, US President Barack Obama warned "autocratic rulers" that they cannot maintain their hold on power through coercion and force and must recognize the "world is changing."
In Syria, too, although President Bashar Assad Tuesday put on a big show of unconcern by mingling unescorted among a crowd of affectionate admirers in Damascus, the situation is very tense. Early Wednesday, he placed Syrian security forces and the army on high alert in readiness for the Day of Anger called for Friday, February 18, by opposition organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood. After Syrian intelligence received word that it was planned to be the most serious attempt to date to shake the dynastic Assad regime, police and security strength in Syrian cities were beefed up. Heavy reinforcements were moved into the Kurdish areas of the north, where the most violent protests are anticipated.
Assad has adopted the Iranian tactic of exerting maximum force to break up crowds as they form and giving security forces a free hand to open fire with live ammunition without having to ask for permission. An earlier Syrian opposition demonstration attempt - Saturday February 5 – was quickly nipped in the bud by the preponderance of security forces in the streets.
Editor's Note: Christian Media and GEO have been tracking the explosion in the Islamic world for some time, and the emergence of what is sometimes called a new Caliphate is anticipated. A Caliphate is essentially an empire, or kingdom, not bound by national borders as much as it is defined along religious grounds. The noted author Joel Richardson has predicted a new Caliphate will actually produce the Antichrist, who he believes will be Islamic. Richardson predicts the action will soon shift to Turkey.
For more on the concept of an Islamic Antichrist, see the GEO file on The Islamic Antichrist.