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Bahrain - Security Policy

Bahrain's leaders are also focusing on unilateral steps to protect themselves. They want to enhance Bahrain's missile defense capability as quickly as possible. King Hamad told Secretary Gates on March 26 that Bahrain needed three Patriot firing units; he hoped the U.S. would provide one and Bahrain would buy or lease the other two. A Patriot firing unit will temporarily deploy to Bahrain in May as part of the annual GCC military exercise, Eagle Resolve. OSD is examining options for providing a longer-term solution, including re-deployment to the region of some of the Patriot units currently based in the United States as well as the periodic deployment of SM-2 and SM-3 equipped AEGIS cruisers.

Vulnerability to maritime threats is a second leading concern. The government has made enhancing coastal defense a high priority. The Embassy and NAVCENT have submitted a 1206 request for $20 million to upgrade Bahrain's Coastal Surveillance Radar. If approved, this proposal would significantly improve Bahrain's maritime security capability and send a strong message of support to the government at a time of steep reductions in FMF and IMET funding.

Bahrain is a leading advocate for greater multilateral security cooperation. They eagerly welcomed Secretary Gates' initiative on regional air and maritime defenses. As a result of his meeting with Chiefs of Staff from the GCC and Jordan in Manama last December, there is now broad recognition that effective regional air and maritime defense requires multilateral cooperation. Following up, NAVCENT hosted a Maritime Infrastructure Symposium in February, which was attended by representatives from the GCC and some NATO countries. Air Force Chief of Staff General Mosley will bring together in Bahrain this June Air Chiefs from the GCC plus 2 to develop a way-ahead for shared early warning and regional air defense. On March 4, Bahrain's navy took command of Combined Task Force (CTF) 152, the coalition maritime force that patrols the central and southern Arabian Gulf. It is the first time a Gulf state has commanded a coalition military operation. It is also worth mentioning that on April 23-24, Bahrain hosted a meeting of NATO's North Atlantic Council as part of the Istanbul initiative.

Since achieving independence in 1971, Bahrain has pursued a policy of close consultation with neighboring states. Bahrain became a member of the United Nations and the Arab League in 1971. In 1981 it joined its five neighbors--Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, the U.A.E. and Qatar--to form the strategic Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Bahrain has complied with GCC efforts steps to coordinate economic development and defense and security planning. In December 1994, for example, Bahrain concurred with the GCC decision to drop secondary and tertiary boycotts against Israel. Bahrain also responded positively to Kuwait's request to deploy the GCC collective defense force, "Peninsula Shield," during the buildup and execution of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in 2003.

In addition to maintaining strong relations with its largest financial backers, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the U.A.E., Bahrain has worked to improve its relations with Qatar and has proper, but not warm, relations with Iran. Bahrain-Iran relations have been strained since the discovery in 1981 of an Iran-sponsored coup plot in Bahrain. Bahraini suspicions of the Iranian role in local unrest in the mid-1990s remain. On March 16, 2001, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced its judgment on the long-standing maritime delimitation and territorial dispute between Bahrain and Qatar. The binding judgment awarded sovereignty over the Hawar Islands and Qit'at Jaradah to Bahrain and sovereignty over Zubarah (part of the Qatar Peninsula), Janan Island and Fasht ad Dibal to Qatar. The peaceful settlement of this dispute has allowed for renewed co-operation, including plans to construct a causeway between the two countries.

King Hamad has for some time seen Qatar as a thorn in the sides of Bahrain and the GCC. Bilaterally, Qatar has continued to rebuff Bahraini requests to open negotiations on long-term contracts for North Field gas, which irks King Hamad - first, because Bahrain needs additional energy supply, and second, because it is taken as a personal slight, all the more galling because Qatar is seen as turning its back on a GCC partner in need while at the same time concluding new gas supply contracts with a host of other non-Arabs (China, Mexico, and Britain). Qatar is also the lone hold-out among GCC members blocking the candidacy of Muhamad al Mutawa, a Bahraini, to take over as GCC Secretary General in 2011 (ref b). According to King Hamad, the Qataris told him they oppose Mutawa because they consider him to be the architect of anti-Qatari media campaigns during the Hawar Islands dispute, when he was Minister of Information.

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