Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bahrain protesters march on palace as Gates visits

Tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters encircled one of the royal family's palaces Saturday, shouting calls for political freedom and the king's ouster a day after a similar march triggered a violent response from security forces.

There was no repeat of the violent scenes from a day earlier when police backed by pro-government mobs drove crowds back from a different palace by firing rubber bullets and tear gas in a melee that injured dozens, according to witness accounts.

In contrast, Saturday's demonstration — which coincided with a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates — was allowed to ring the palace with police deployed only inside its premises.

Gates said that Bahrain and other Arab governments facing popular uprisings need to move quickly toward democratic reforms or risk giving regional rival Iran a chance to exploit the instability. Iran, a Shiite power in the region, is seen by Sunni-led countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as a serious threat. (read more)