Bahrain Tackles Terror at Home and From Abroad

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These are not easy times for Bahrain or indeed for the entire Arabian Gulf but the tiny kingdom has managed to keep its head above water thanks to tough security and coordination with fellow states in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

While the retreating Houthi tribals in Yemen are keeping the coalition of Saudi, Bahraini and UAE forces busy, the six key Arab oil states in the Gulf are also having to contend with threats from a variety of terror outfits ranging from the Lebanese Hizbollah, the Ashtar Brigades, and specifically in the case of Bahrain the Coalition of February 14 Group, not to speak of the biggest menace of them all – the Islamic State.

On top of all this there are Iran-funded and Revolutionary Guards-trained elements who are always on the lookout for opportunities to create trouble in Bahrain even though the miscreants have lately whittled down their activities to burning tyres on highways and byways and throwing an occasional Molotov cocktail at police if only to register their existence.

Given its size it may appear on the surface that Bahrain might be finding it tough to contend with enemies both within and without, especially in view of the Iranian machinations and the consequent proxy war. But the Ministry of Interior is now planning to take punitive measures to nip any trouble in the bud.

Thus, earlier this week it warned associations, organizations and individuals that tough security and legal action will be taken against them if they deal with terrorist organizations, or join them, or even wave their leaders’ pictures or raise slogans or symbols to support them or even show them sympathy. These are tough measures indeed to close all legal loopholes or escape routes for thugs and troublemakers masquerading as fighters for rights or spokesmen for the underdog.

A radical measure the Ministry has taken, copying the American method, is to hurt the terrorist outfits financially. Thus, it has blacklisted investments, trade, economic dealings and activities carried out in the guise of charity work, and their bank accounts and remittances as well. Indeed a close look at the Middle East would show that lately a variety of charity organizations have cropped up in the region (and even in Pakistan) since charitable work is a tradition in Islam but not all of them are above board.

Bahrain being the closest neighbour of Saudi Arabia with the highest traffic of citizens between the two countries, it has also commended the Saudi clampdown on persons and outfits working with the Lebanese Hizbollah (which Bahrain has already banned together with quite a few other known terrorist organizations). And it finally it has praised the idea of an Islamic Alliance led by Riyadh which would play a crucial role in countering terrorist outfits.

Indeed Bahrain has always advocated a concerted Gulf-wide effort, preferably under the aegis of the Gulf Cooperation Council, to create regional alliances to confront terrorist groups which is a wise move given its size and resources. Even at the height of troubles in 2011, Bahrain never accepted defeat or felt daunted. And now that the hostile opposition acts have lost their steam, there is little reason for it to be despondent.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.