Djibouti: desirable location

First we thank former British ambassador Robin Lamb for a comment on our posting of 29 May on Bahrain:

Perhaps inadvertently, your report on Bahrain conveys the impression that Bahrain’s client relationship with Saudi Arabia is a function of the Saudi/Iran and Sunni/Shia confrontations.  It of course goes deeper and earlier.  With little onshore oil, Bahrain’s oil revenues are principally derived from an half share in the offshore Abu Safah oilfield whose production is landed in and sold by Saudi Arabia (potentially allowing Saudi Arabia to withhold Bahraini oil revenue).  The feedstock for Bahrain’s Bapco export refinery in supplied by pipeline from Saudi Arabia. Most of Bahrain’s other strategic industries involve Saudi stakes and shareholders.  Most tourists to Bahrain are Saudis.  When Bahrain tested the limits of Saudi tolerance by signing an FTA with the USA in September 2004, against Saudi wishes, the Saudis cancelled a supplementary oil supply on the grounds that it had only been intended as temporary (but the message was clear and heard).  Bahraini policy towards political reform and its Shia minority has to take constant account of the pace of reform in Saudi Arabia (as well as, to a lesser extent, other GCC states/donors) and Saudi sensitivity over its own large Shia minority in the adjacent Eastern Province.  Saudi influence outweighs that of the US, UK and other nations and NGOs – put together.  Frank Gardner does not mention this over-bearing issue but, as a former resident of Bahrain, will know it well. 

Djibouti: desirable location

Summary: a stable point in a region of deprivation and breakdown, Djibouti is the centre for relief operations for Yemen, and has attracted a cluster of foreign military bases. We will hear more of it.

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