June 24, 2013 – Today, the Brookings Institution released a report by US Navy Commander Richard McDaniel titled “No ‘Plan B’: U.S. Strategic Access in the Middle East and the Question of Bahrain.” In it, Mr. McDaniel advocates for the need for a contingency plan for the possible relocation of the United States Naval Fifth Fleet due to ongoing unrest in Bahrain.
Bahrain has seen a dramatic increase in protests and political unrest since 2011 due to the lack of implementation of reforms by the Bahrain government. However, as Mr. McDaniel notes, while most US military officials readily admit concern due to the severity and duration of the Bahrain uprising, there is currently no “Plan B” for the relocation of the Fifth Fleet. Due to the unabated uprising in Bahrain, Mr. McDaniel urges the US Government to immediately begin researching options for such a contingency plan should the situation in Bahrain become so severely destabilized that relocation is necessary.
Although “Bahrain holds immense strategic and operational value” for the United States, Mr. McDaniel warns that “the situation in Bahrain could deteriorate very rapidly, leaving the U.S. without a key maritime hub in the Middle East.” Mr. McDaniel argues that the failure to create a Plan B for basing options of the US Naval Fifth Fleet “could have disastrous results for the United States’ strategic interests,” lending urgency to the need for the development of a contingency plan.
In addressing concerns that the creation of a basing contingency plan will strain relations between the US and Bahrain, Mr. McDaniel argues that bilateral relations would not necessarily be impacted if the plan is messaged properly. However, Mr. McDaniel notes that the ideal solution would be for the Bahrain government to enact swift reforms to increase stability, and notes that “the United States has a moral obligation to strongly encourage democratic reforms … particularly where we have such an influential relationship and significant investment.”