Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he wants to set up a joint Saudi-Arabian military operation in Bahrain to “protect the region”.
“We have been trying for many years to establish a joint military operation between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, but it’s not possible,” he told the BBC’s Middle East Editor Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The two countries share the same sovereign status in the Gulf.
“So I want to set it up now.
It’s a strategic opportunity to protect the region, and to protect all Arab countries, and this is our aim.
This is our ambition.”
The prince, who is also the country’s defence minister, said the Saudi-led military alliance in Bahrain would be a permanent presence in the kingdom’s southern region, known as the Eastern Province.
“The Saudi- Bahrain alliance is a permanent military alliance,” he said.
“We will remain the guarantor of the security of the region.”
Al Jazeera’s Anthony Zurcher, reporting from Riyadh, said that the interview is a major blow to the Saudi government’s attempts to present itself as a stabilising force in the region and the Arab world.
“It’s going to be a big blow for the kingdom.
It will also be a blow for King Salman,” he added.
The royal court has said it has no plans to leave Bahrain and that the move is purely aimed at ensuring stability in the oil-rich country.
The move comes amid escalating tensions in the impoverished Gulf kingdom.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia fired at least 10 missiles at Iran’s Shayrat air base in Syria after Iranian-backed militias attacked a Saudi convoy in the eastern province of Taiz, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The United States condemned the attack, which took place on the same day that Saudi-backed Houthi rebels killed three civilians in a cross-border attack.
The rebels were supported by a Russian air campaign that is backed by Iran.
The U.S. also has military advisers stationed in Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis have also launched attacks on the Saudi border, including on the border with Yemen.
The coalition has also been conducting air strikes against Iranian-supported Houthi forces in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa.
“Today is an historic day for us,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh on Monday.
“This is a historic day.
The kingdom is a sovereign nation, and we have a right to defend ourselves and our interests.
We have a duty to protect our sovereignty and our people and that’s why we have chosen to defend our sovereignty.”
Saudi Arabia has been conducting a campaign in Yemen since March 2015 to drive back Iran-allied rebels backed by Russia, who seized the capital Sanaa and killed over 250 people.
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, according to the United Nations.