On Saturday, Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, the man tasked by the Pentagon to keep control of the seas in the Middle East through the US Navy’s Bahrain-based Naval Forces Central Command, with oversight of Red Sea, Strait of Hormuz, and Persian Gulf operations, was found dead in his residence in Bahrain.
Stearney's command post is seen by security experts as a key tool to further US interests, such as curtailing Iran’s alleged influence in Yemen, and to protect shipping routes which are relevant to the United States for economic and security reasons.
Stearney was found dead in his house in Bahrain and at this moment there is no reason to suspect he died from anything other than natural causes, according to the New York Times.
Bahrain is predominantly Shiite Muslim country, but with a majority Sunni leadership. The security affairs of the the small island country, with around 1.6 million people according to a 2016 census, are directly connected to the heavy US military presence.
The small island country has seen its internal and external affairs mixed up with U.S. and Saudi Arabia’s interests time and again.
In the 1990s, Bahrain signed a cooperation agreement with the United States which directly gave the latter a naval base, which is the home of the United States Naval Forces Central Command and over 6,000 U.S. military personnel. Along with this, the western country has had a big role in strengthening the country’s military with tanks, fighter jets, and ships.
In 2011, large Sunni protests in the context of the Arab Spring broke out. The government then requested assistance from Saudi Arabia. The latter sent troops to help the government quell protests, generating concerns about human rights violations, according to the Telegraph.
Bahrain’s King, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have held a close cooperation in recent years as members of the Saudi-led Coalition which operates in Yemen to stomp rebel groups on the ground.
The war in Yemen has become one of the greatest humanitarian disasters in history.
The White House has recently come under heavy pressure from the United Nations, and the international community at large, as well as internal political pressure to stop supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s attacks on Yemen, where approximately 84,700 children died between April 2015 and October 2018 from severe malnutrition directly related to the war.