The protesters, including women and children, had been camping out and the atmosphere had been festive only hours before. But by about 3:30 a.m. Thursday, people were fleeing, screaming “We were sleeping. We were sleeping,” and ambulances, sirens blaring, were trying to make their way through the crowds.
Bahrain, while a small Persian Gulf nation, has considerable strategic value to the United States as the base of its Fifth Fleet, which American officials rely upon to assure the continued flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to the West and to protect the interests of the United States in a 20-nation area that includes vital waterways such as the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz. The base is home to 2,300 military personnel, most of them in the Navy.