Bahrain and Neighbours Have Reason to Back Trump on Iran

US President Donald Trump has pulled his country out of the five-nation nuclear deal with Iran, signed in the days when Barack Obama lived in the White House, and decided to reimpose economic sanctions. “This was a horrible one-sided deal that should never, ever have been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace. And it never will,” Trump said in a televised address.

While pulling the plug despite protestations from some of the other signatories to the deal, especially France, Britain and Germany, Trump argued that the deal as it stood didn’t address the issue of Iran’s ballistic missile programme, didn’t acknowledge Iran’s nuclear activities beyond 2025 and didn’t bother to make Iran accountable for its role in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

Moreover, the deal failed to prevent Iran from cheating and continuing to try and develop nuclear weapons. Trump ended with the riposte that the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb cannot be prevented “under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement … the deal is defective at its core.”

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates [UAE] couldn’t agree more and have said as much. The Bahrain foreign minister promptly reacted to the Trump announcement by stating that the “crippled” Iran deal had already allowed Tehran the freedom to stoke tensions in the region unchecked.

He also said that while Tehran was outraged that the US was renouncing its vows by reneging on the treaty, “we saw the reversal of vows, lies and conspiracies from the untrustworthy Iranian regime. It was an imperfect agreement that unleashed the hands of Iran to tamper with the security and stability of the region.”

As far as Bahrain is concerned the most blatant example of this is the periodic refusal by Iran to accept the treaty it signed in the 1970s renouncing its specious claim on Bahrain. Successive mullahs, ayatollahs, journalists and ministers in Iran have often issued provocative and bravado-laced statements down the decades laying claim to Bahrain as Iranian territory though the treaty renouncing the claim was signed and sealed by Iran’s shah Mohammed Raza Pahlavi under the aegis of the US.

Its same hegemonistic trait has allowed it to continue to occupy the UAE islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs for close to half a century, balking at any attempt at amicable talks or settlement on the issue.

Backing the Trump decision, Saudi Arabia has rightly claimed that Iran had been “taking advantage of the revenue generated by the lifting of the sanctions to destabilise the region.” It should know better; post the nuclear deal Iran has been hyperactive in Yemen, supplying arms, ammunition, missiles and funds to the Houthi rebels to destabilise the impoverished country and challenge Saudi Arabia by firing missiles on its cities. The head of the Arab coalition force fighting the Yemeni menace had reason to claim only recently that Iran was actually using Yemen to test some of its indigenously-produced weaponry and missiles.

In the wake of the Trump announcement Tehran has threatened to resume uranium enrichment “without limit.” Which means it has always had the resources to do what it wanted on the nuclear front and given its history of deceit, lies, wilful attitude, secret locations to carry on covert nuclear and missile activity, and grooming of terror outfits such as the Hezbollah, it would have had its way, treaty or no treaty.

But while the Trump move restricts Iran’s ability to generate oil revenue, the fact that the remaining four signatories to the treaty are still standing by it offers it a silver lining. And considering it has found a foothold in gas-rich Qatar in the last one year means it is likely to continue to find ways to carry on with its activities inimical to the interests and stability of some of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] countries of which Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are a part.

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.