MANAMA, Bahrain — Protests that flared here in response to Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric have not affected the U.S. naval base here, home to the 5th Fleet.
“We have re-emphasized the importance of individual force protection practices to all our personnel including a review of off-limits areas,” Capt. Cory Howes, the commanding officer of Naval Support Activity Bahrain, said in emailed comments. “We have not implemented any additional restrictions.”
While the most volatile protests by members of the Sunni monarchy’s Shiite majority have occurred mostly outside the center of Manama and away from the base in areas normally off limits for U.S. government workers, there have been debris and tire fires on main roads personnel use to travel to and from the Bahrain School and the base.
As with similar incidents in the past, the base sends text alerts informing personnel of such incidents and asking them to avoid those locations.
In the wake of this week’s protests, there has been a stronger police presence in town and around the base and school.
The execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, along with 46 others on Saturday, sparked protests across the region and a worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Bahrain followed Saudi Arabia in severing ties with Iran, which tiny island kingdom often blames for supporting Shiite protests. Those began in 2011, sparking a violent crackdown, and they have continued sporadically since.
Protests flared in Bahrain after al-Nimr’s execution, and there were reports Sunday that police fired birdshot and water cannons at protesters.
“NSA Bahrain monitors all security-related events in the region vigilantly,” Howes said. “We are confident that our security posture is robust and appropriate for the current situation.”
The effects on the Bahrain School, run by the Department of Defense Education Activity, have been minimal, “as the incidents have occurred outside of school hours,” said Principal Terry Greene.
Base officials have reminded personnel to avoid off-limits areas, but the boundaries of those areas have not changed.
“As always, we will continue to assess security conditions and adjust accordingly,” Howes said.