The King of Bahrain declared martial law, in an attempt to restore order to the country that he rules, after a few weeks of peaceful calls for a more representative government escalated into violent clashes with police.
King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa announced the beginning of a three-month state of emergency, to be enforced by the country's security forces. More than 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia, who arrived the day before, would no doubt be part of any security arrangement. Earlier, Bahraini security forces in the capital, Manama, had fired tear gas and rubber pellets at protesters wielding rocks, knives, and clubs in a clash outside the king's palace in Riffa.
Opposition leaders condemned the introduction of martial law and pleaded for international intervention on their behalf. A march to protest the arrival of Saudi troops was entirely peaceful.
The United States Navy bases its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. Top officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Assistant Secretary of State Jeff Feltman, were in the area urging a resolution.
The king is the latest in a long line of dynastic rulers, stretching back more than 200 years, and his friends and relatives make up most of the government. They are also Sunni Muslims, on one side of a great divide within the Islamic faith. The majority of the protesters are on the other side and are Shiite. Indeed, the majority of the citizens in Bahrain are Shiite, yet the Sunni minority rules the government. That religious divide is the second element of the conflict.
The protesters have claimed discrimination based on their religious beliefs, mainly that the government has made it much easier for Sunnis who don't live in Bahrain to become citizens and even serve in the security forces, in an attempt to even out the population. The government has denied any such activity.