U.S.-Bahraini economic ties have grown steadily since 1932, when Americans began to help develop Bahrain's oil industry. Currently, many American banks and firms use Bahrain as a base for regional operations. In 1986, the United States displaced Japan to become the top exporter to Bahrain.
Since 1948, Bahrain has been the headquarters of U.S. naval activity in the Gulf. Currently, the Naval Support Activity (NSA), occupying 79 acres of land in the center of downtown Manama, is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Manama also is the home port for four U.S. Navy minesweepers. During the Gulf War, U.S. and Bahraini aircraft flew thousands of sorties against Iraq. Most recently, Bahrain provided extensive basing and overflight clearances for a multitude of U.S. aircraft operating in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Bahrain Monetary Agency moved quickly to restrict terrorists' ability to transfer funds through Bahrain's financial system. Bahrain also cooperated effectively on criminal investigation issues in support of the campaign on terrorism. In October 2001, President Bush announced his intention to designate Bahrain as a major non-NATO ally.
Bahrain is the hub logistics site in the NAVCENT AOR for distributing all passengers and cargo and mail originating in CONUS. It is served by AMC for cargo and CAT-B missions coming from the east coast via the Mediterranean. Full transient services are available to personnel arriving in Bahrain.
Bahrain is a small but important island nation in the Arabian Gulf. Over the past 20 years, the country has evolved from a bustling Gulf state to on international banking and buisness center. The population of approxamately 660,000 is probably one of the most cosmopolitian in the Middle East, including people from the Far and Near East, Europe, North and South America, and other parts of the Arab world. The capital city of Manama contains modern shopping centers and hotels from major international chains. The parents of the Bahrain School students tend to be well educated and hold positions of responsibility in local and international firms and orginizations.
When Bahrain became independent, the traditionally excellent U.S.-Bahrain relationship was formalized with the establishment of diplomatic relations. The U.S. embassy at Manama was opened September 21, 1971, and a resident ambassador was sent in 1974. The Bahraini embassy in Washington, DC, opened in 1977. In October 1991, Amir Isa bin Sulman Al Khalifa made a state visit to Washington, after which he visited other parts of the U.S. as well. In 2001, Amir Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa made his first visit to the U.S. after succeeding his father in 1999.
Because of its small size and limited wealth, Bahrain has not taken a leading role in regional or international affairs. Bahrain comprises an archipelago of thirty-three islands situated midway in the Persian Gulf close to the shore of the Arabian Peninsula. Its name is derived from two Arabic words "thnain Bahr" meaning "two seas" and refers to the phenomenon of sweet water springs under the sea which mingle with the salty water. This phenomenon is believed to be responsible for the unusual luster of Bahrain's natural pearls, the country's major economy before the discovery of oil.
The islands are about twenty-four kilometers from the east coast of Saudi Arabia and twenty-eight kilometers from Qatar. The total area of the islands is about 300 square miles [691 square kilometers], or about four times the size of the District of Columbia. The largest island, accounting for 83 percent of the area, is Bahrain (also seen as Al Bahrayn), which has an extent of 572 square kilometers. The main island is 40 miles long and only 10 miles wide, with a population of almost 600,000. Bahrain, known as the "Pearl of the Gulf," has been inhabited for about 50,000 years. Some of the flint tools found there suggest that agriculture may have been practiced in Bahrain as far back as 8,000 B.C. Surrounded by the blue-green waters of the Arabian Gulf, its predominate features include low desert terrain, an abundance of date palm trees and lots and lots of sand.
The weather is temperate and comfortable October through April. Although rainfall averages about three inches a year, sunshine is the norm almost year round, and the summers will re-define "hot" for most people. In fact, the summer of 1998 was the hottest season of the century.
Manama is a cosmopolitan city of about 144,000. Central Manama is undergoing extensive urban development, featuring new banks, hotels, offices, and six-lane, divided highways on land reclaimed from the sea during the past 15 years. This growth has resulted in moderately increased traffic congestion and the distinct beginnings of urban sprawl. Yet, the city is livable and many consider it the preferred location in the Gulf. The discomfort of the outdoor summer weather and the real, as well as psychological, isolation of life on a small island community cause frustration for some. Local and Western institutions and organizations, with long tenure and extensive administrative and financial resources, help in coping with day-to-day problems. Highly paid individuals in the private sector also relieve these frustrations with frequent travel outside Bahrain. Embassy personnel do not enjoy either advantage. Personnel assigned to post are eligible for two R&Rs per 3-year tour. The designated R&R point is London.
Naval Ship Repair Facility Bahrain
In 1977 the Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard Company (ASRY) was inaugurated near Al Hadd. ASRY was a joint venture of Bahrain and the six other members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC): Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, U.A.E., Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq and the Libyan Jamahiriya.
The company operates a repair yard with 500,000 DWT graving dock, two floating docks with capacities to lift vessels up to 33,000 and 30,000 tons displacement and four V.L.C.C. repair berths. This large dry-dock facility has accommodations for up to ten supertankers simultaneously, and it annually repairs an average of seventy ships. In early 2005 Arab Shipbuilding and Repair Yard (Asry) launched a $15 million expansion program, adding three more dry berths to its facilities in Hidd.
Causeways and bridges connect Bahrain to adjacent islands and the mainland of Saudi Arabia. The oldest causeway, originally constructed in 1929, links Bahrain to Al Muharraq, the second largest island. Although the island is only six kilometers long, the country's second largest city, Al Muharraq, and the international airport are located there. A causeway also connects Al Muharraq to the tiny island of Jazirat al Azl, the site of a major ship-repair and dry-dock center. On Mubarrak (Muharraq) Island are the towns of Muharraq and Hidd, a few villages, the Dry Dock complex and the Bahrain International Airport.
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