Bahrain's monarch has declared a three-month state of emergency as troops cracked down on protests threatening the regime. The news follows the decision of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to send troops to aid the government of the tiny island nation, which is also home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and key oil facilities.
USA Today correspondent Nada Alwadi reports that the army crackdown and curfew have made the capital of Manama into a "city of ghosts." Several people were killed as police and soldiers stormed the opposition's symbolic center in the capital, the Pearl Roundabout. Government forces used tanks, helicopters, and jeeps with machine guns, the New York Times reported. The city's financial center was deserted; banks and shops were closed. CNN also reported that police stormed the country's hospital, beating doctors who had been treating wounded protesters.
Sectarian tensions in the country have worsened significantly, with prominent Shiites resigning from the government. Bahrain's Shiite health minister quit, to "boycott the government because of the way it is dealing with the current events in the country." Twelve judges from the Shiite court circuit also resigned citing the "bloody events, use of excessive force and weapons."
The crackdown has also put regional heads of states at odds. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sided with Shiite protesters, calling the Saudi invasion "irreparable" and unjustifiable." Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has tried to steer his nation away from violence between Sunnis and Shiites, was cited "condemning the complication" that "could lead to inflaming sectarian tension." Turkey, which enjoys good relations with both sides, told regional leaders to "cool it."
The U.S. Navy responded to fresh violence by authorizing the voluntary departure of military dependents and civilians from Bahrain, citing the security situation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called movement of foreign troops into Bahrain "alarming" and said she wants all players in the region to keep "their own agenda" of the protests. "There is no answer to the demands for political and economic reform though a security crackdown," Clinton told CNN.