It’s official. Qatar is co-operating with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to promote “extremism and terrorism” in the region. For the first time Bahrain’s Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa, in a speech earlier this week to mark the Community Police Day, drew a direct link between Doha and the elite paramilitary force that answers to Iran’s supreme authority Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Bahrain, together with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June last year, boycotted it and blocked its planes from their airspace. Despite the best efforts of Kuwait and even US President Donald Trump, the impasse continues.
And the impasse continues because Qatar, though part of the longstanding regional grouping called the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] has failed to agree to any of the 13 demands presented by the Quartet to mend its ways. The main accusations against it relate to funding, supporting and harbouring Middle Eastern radical and terrorist outfits, using its Jazeera TV to denigrate, humiliate and undermine its GCC partners, and cosying up to Iran. Iran has much to explain for its infarctions and animosity down the decades against the interests and regimes of the Arab Gulf region.
On top of that, Qatar stands accused of trying to undermine Bahrain and overthrow the government and supporting pro-Iran individuals and outfits on Bahrain soil. It does that by way of cash, arms and ammunition and encouraging them to resort to violence against the country’s security services.
“There is constant interference by Iran and other countries in our internal security affairs,” the Minister said as he met members of the community. “Iran’s continuing efforts to recruit Bahrainis to change their national ideology and train them to carry out terrorist acts, the use of weapons and explosives, and the co-operation between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Qatar are regional signs of extremism and terrorism.”
To counter the radicalisation of the Bahraini youth and put an end to street violence he also announced the setting up of a 16-member National Committee to Reinforce Loyalty and National Values with representatives of civil societies, including the National Institution for Human Rights, community leaders, academics and a lawyer.
But while this is a timely measure to contain the Iran-inspired and Qatar-backed menace, the world community also needs to step forward and closely examine such disruptive and sinister links.
As it is, Iran has gotten away cheaply by signing the nuclear deal with the West in US ex-president Barack Obama’s time with little to show for its effectiveness when one considers brazen activity by Tehran to develop its nuclear arms capability. The Saudi Crown Prince did not mince words while deriding the deal during his talks with Trump in the course of his recent visit to the US.
While the need for uninterrupted westward oil flow from Iran and gas flow from Qatar makes it complicated for the West to call out the two countries on their misdemeanours, the interests of their other oil partners in the region cannot be brushed under the carpet. That’s poor realpolitik.