British Prime Minister Theresa May’s strong words against Iran and the determination she expressed to safeguard the interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries [Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar] while attending the GCC Summit in Manama earlier this month has not found the kind of Press coverage it deserves. Significantly, she was only the third world leader to be invited to attend the summit in the GCC’s nearly 40-year history.
She claimed in her speech that she was “clear-eyed” about the threat posed by Iran in the Gulf and the Middle East. And she promised to counteract Tehran’s “aggressive regional actions” sitting in the capital of Bahrain which has suffered most from Iran’s covert and overt actions and continues to face threats of instability.
In the wake of the 2011 sectarian troubles in Bahrain, provoked and perpetuated by Iran, Britain has begun to take interest in its former colonial outpost once more. This has partly been inspired by the perceptible change in the US actions and attitude when it comes to pro-Iranian elements living in Bahrain who at one stage were being openly courted and advised by the US ambassador at a time when Bahrain was trying to end the stalemate by talking to them. And in the meantime Russia too came significantly close to Bahrain during the same period.
Not to be left behind, the foundations for a British naval base in Bahrain were laid in the time of May’s predecessor, the earlier one having been shut down decades ago the political realities were different in the UK’s perception. The US already has a very large naval base in Bahrain.
Indeed she was quoted in the media as saying her country wanted to “make a more permanent and more enduring commitment to the long-term security of the Gulf.” To this end she promised to spend more than £3 billion to defend the Gulf over the next 10 years.
To quote the BBC, she said:“Gulf security is our security.Extremists plotting terror attacks here, in this region, are not only targeting the Gulf but, as we have seen, targeting the streets of Europe, too. Whether we’re confronting the terrorism of Al Qaeda or the murderous barbarity of the ISIS, no country is a more committed partner for you in this fight than the UK.”
Britain certainly has played a significant role already in bringing about the West’s nuclear deal with Iran to contain the latter’s hegemonic ambitions. But May was also alive to the regional realities where the destabilizing role of Iran is self-evident – its role in supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen, in covertly sending Revolutionary Guard fighters in the guise of advisers to fight alongside Bashar Al Assad’s troops to try and neutralize any efforts the US, UK and Gulf forces might make to bring stability in Syria, and in generally creating chaos in Lebanon and Iraq especially through Hezbollah.
One only hopes the results of her promises would eventually bring benefits to Bahrain.