Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia and Bahrain discussed a political union at a meeting in Riyadh on 13 May. The arrangement under discussion would allow Bahrain to retain its seat at the United Nations, but the two states would merge foreign relations, defense and economic policy, according to press sources. The details have not been released.
Bahrain's Prime Minister, the Army Chief of Staff and the Foreign Minister – all members of the al-Khalifa royal family — have stated their support for the union.
Comment: The King of Bahrain and the royal family are Sunni Muslims who govern a population of mostly Shiite Muslims. Thus, the news that a union with Saudi Arabia is under discussion has prompted widespread criticism that Saudi Arabia intends to make Bahrain a vassal state so as to keep the Shiites disenfranchised and subjugated.
On the other hand, the limited information in the public domain suggests Bahrain's administration of internal affairs will not be changed by the union proposal. Bahrain, by itself, is not defensible against an Iranian attack or subversion, but in a union arrangement with Saudi Arabia it would not be alone.
Saudi King Abdallah has warned Iran repeatedly against meddling in Arab affairs. This union is consistent with his policy decision to stop Iranian meddling in Arab countries as well as the spread of Shi'i Islam which the Sunnis consider a heresy.
One advantage of the union would be that it would bypass tricky conditions attached to US foreign military sales. Conditions of the sales include that US military equipment can only be used for defense, cannot be resold without US permission and cannot be used outside the recipient country without US permission. Under a union arrangement, the Saudis would not need to consult the US before sending Saudi forces equipped with US tanks and armored personnel carriers back to Bahrain, unless they chose to.
Phi Beta Iota: It is entirely possible that Saudi Arabia is moving to a whole new level of global diplomacy, information-sharing, military alliances, and economic entanglements (DIME). Qatar is similar to Bahrain in multiple ways. Below is a map of the Sunni – Shi'ite spread. A religious war is brewing, not just Sunni – Shi'ite, but Pentecostals against Islam, Jews against everyone, Catholics in a panic, and so on. We say it again: counter-intelligence generally, and religious counter-intelligence specifically, is the ONE 21st Century aspect of the craft of intelligence that must continue to be secret and that must *explode* in the near-term. Note: within the eight “tribes” or communities, we include religion and labor organizations within the Civil Society tribe. The others are academic, commerce, government at all levels, law enforcement, media, military, and non-government/non-profit.