Arab Gulf Countries Isolate Iran As U.S. Lifts Sanctions

Bahrain Stance on Iran Vindicated

One fails to understand the fury of the Iranian populace following the execution of 47 terrorists and anti-national elements in Saudi Arabia some weeks ago. The mob ransacked and torched the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran and the consulate in Meshed. Men calling for armed rebellion against a sovereign state’s police and institutions need to be eliminated after the due process of the law and the same fate should meet their minions trained and indoctrinated by them. That is all the authorities in Saudi Arabia had done.

Moreover, coming from the Iranian mob, which for all one knows may have been instigated by the state, the violent protests seemed anomalous and ludicrous considering Iran itself is notorious for routine executions on a virtually daily basis. Iranian authorities are believed to have executed 694 people between January 1 and July 15, 2015 – an average of three executions a day, according to a report appearing on the Gatestone Institute international policy council website two weeks ago.

According to an Amnesty International report issued in July last year, “Death sentences in Iran are particularly disturbing because they are invariably imposed by courts that are completely lacking in independence and impartiality. They are imposed either for vaguely worded or overly broad offences, or for acts that should not be criminalized at all, let alone attract the death penalty. Trials in Iran are deeply flawed, detainees are often denied access to lawyers in the investigative stage, and there are inadequate procedures for appeal, pardon and commutation.”

The fact is that it is not only Saudi Arabia which has been sick of the religious heads of the Shiite community, especially in its eastern region, continuing to make anti-state speeches but neighbouring Bahrain as well since the tiny Gulf kingdom also has a sizeable Shiite community. And both nations have suffered due to the guerilla activities of their followers.

Since February 2011, Bahrain has been suffering from constant verbal assaults by a section of the Shiite leaders and the no less virulent [though lately abated] violent, criminal and terrorist activities of their followers. Ali Salman, one of their leaders, has already been convicted for anti-state activities. And all fingers, clues and needles of suspicion for training, arming and funding the terrorists and anti-state actors in the Shiite camp point to Iran.

Saudi Arabia has not been an idle spectator of this scenario. However, it needed the spark of the flagrant attack on its embassy and the consulate to come down on Iran with the full force of its wrath. In a swift three-pronged riposte it cut diplomatic ties with Iran by recalling its ambassador and expelling the Iranian envoy, stopped its national airline Saudia’s flights to Iran and cut all trade ties with Tehran.

It did not take other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member-nations [of which Saudi Arabia is a part] long to follow suit. Bahrain too ended its diplomatic ties, stopped flights by its Gulf Air to Iran and stopped trade as well. The United Arab Emirates downgraded its diplomatic links, Kuwait and Qatar recalled their ambassadors, Oman condemned the mob action in Tehran. Even beyond the Arab Gulf region Egypt and Sudan cut diplomatic ties with Iran. Many other Arab nations from Morocco to Jordan condemned the attacks. On top of this, Saudi Arabia held a meeting of GCC foreign ministers and promised further punitive measures against Iran.

The fact is that these measures will not only isolate Iran in the region but also hurt its trade with the Arab Gulf countries which was largely one-way from Iran. Unlike the West, the Gulf countries, oil nations themselves, do not need oil from Iran, whereas Iran needs to sell much to those countries by way of private and official trade – agricultural produce for starters – and import cheap electronics, textiles and machinery from the entrepots of the tax-free Gulf nations.

The punitive steps will hardly affect the Arab nations but grossly pinch Iran.

It has been noticed that ever since a collapsing Iran was made to stand up by the West following a nuclear agreement last year after decades of sanctions, Tehran had begun to snub its nose at the Gulf countries and its misguided populace had come to take the Arab Gulf states for granted as if the bosom of the west could provide them with all the succor they needed. Iran must now understand it was a grave miscalculation.

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.