Britain Expanding Military Presence in Bahrain

Britain Expanding Military Presence in BahrainBritain Expanding Military Presence in Bahrain

The UK is to establish its first permanent military base in the Middle East since it formally withdrew from the region in 1971.

A deal signed in Bahrain this weekend will see the Royal Navy get a £15m base of its own in the Persian Gulf.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said the base was an “expansion of the Royal Navy’s footprint” and would “reinforce stability” in the Persian Gulf and the UK.

The base will be located at the Mina Salman Port in Bahrain.

According to the BBC: “The deal will have its detractors. Bahrain has been heavily criticized for its human rights record in the past and despite some reforms, power remains concentrated in the hands of the ruling family.

“The majority Shia population here complain of discrimination by their Sunni rulers. There will also be some who resent the prospect of western military forces being permanently based here. But Britain has been rotating ships, warplanes and ground troops in and out of the [Persian] Gulf for decades on a temporary basis.”

He also said that the ongoing threat of the IS militants may have persuaded Persian Gulf monarchies to be “content to invite British forces to set up on their soil”.

The US military has already got a permanent military presence in the area, and French forces have had a base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UK currently has four ships, known as Mine Hunters, permanently based at the Mina Salman Port, but there are now plans to increase the number of warships sent to the region.

Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa said: “Bahrain looks forward to the early implementation of today’s arrangement and to continuing to work with the UK and other partners to address threats to regional security.”

And his sentiments were echoed by UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who signed the deal.

He said: “The expansion of Britain’s footprint builds upon our 30-year track record of [Persian] Gulf patrols and is just one example of our growing partnership with [Persian] Gulf partners to tackle shared strategic and regional threats.”