RPT-ANALYSIS-Bahrain crisis exposes US-Saudi Arabia rift

Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:55am GMT

* Bahrain seeks military help despite U.S. urging dialogue

* Risks seen for Washington, opportunity for Tehran

* Oil jitters complicate tricky situation

(Repeating analysis moved on Tuesday)

By Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON, March 15 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Bahrain has exposed a diplomatic rift as Riyadh and Washington make different calculations over a crisis that could have a far-ranging impact on their relations.

Close Saudi-U.S. ties anchor stability in the oil-rich Gulf. The autocratic Sunni Muslim monarchy provides 12 percent of U.S. crude imports and serves as a powerful regional counterweight to Shi'ite-ruled Iran, a defiant U.S. foe.

But when Saudi troops rolled across the causeway into neighboring Bahrain on Monday to buttress the embattled Sunni royal family against protests by the island's Shi'ite Muslim majority, Washington scrambled to respond as its own repeated pleas for negotiation appeared to have been swept aside.

"This is the tightrope the administration has to walk," said Kenneth Pollack, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.   Continued...

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