Iran poses a bigger threat to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries than even the Islamic State or ISIS terrorism. Bahrain is the worst sufferer, according to the Kuwaiti head of Gulf Monitor Group, a retired Kuwait Air Force colonel. And there is a lot of truth in his assessment.
“Terrorism is an isometric threat and we train our men to fight that, but I think the priority threat that the GCC faces today is Iran,” Dr Zafer Al Ajmi told Bahrain daily GDN last week. He was speaking on the sidelines of the second Strategic Gulf Conference on Geopolitical Transformations in the Global Sphere, hosted in Bahrain.
His implication is that while one knows what ISIS stands for, following a policy of brutal force and ruthless terror, Iran as a state, is capable of forming terror groups and sending them to the Gulf. He warns the Gulf states to take the Iranian threats more seriously and act accordingly.
Iran has been involved in a long-standing dispute with the United Arab Emirates, occupying its islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs, and since the advent of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 has in varying degrees harassed and tried to brow-beat Bahrain.
But since 2011, when it failed to achieve its goal of regime change in Bahrain through the instrument of its terrorist cells and its minions, it has changed tack and become desperately hostile. There have been many dimensions to this hostility, the most prominent of which has been its support of the Shia Houthi rebels in the poor country of Yemen. It is a move which poses threats to Saudi Arabia as well since it shares a long and porous border with YemenYemen.
Embassies Attacked in Iran
Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s embassies and consulates were also attacked in Iran and subsequently Kuwait sentenced two Iranian spies, one of them a Kuwaiti national, to death. All of this resulted in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Sudan among other countries, ending or downgrading their diplomatic ties with Tehran.
Kuwaiti prosecutors had accused those convicted of being part of a 26-member “terrorist cell” that had committed acts violating state sanctity, collaborating with Iran as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement to carry out hostile schemes against the emirate. They were also accused of possessing explosives, guns, ammunition and unlicensed eavesdropping devices, with the intention of perpetrating crimes.
Hezbollah Sleeper Cells
Iran-backed terrorist Hezbollah outfit is already believed to have sleeper cells in the GCC countries and according to Dr Al Ajmi, “During the past three years … there has not been a single month without Iranian interference in the Gulf states.”
He also suggested that Iran need to be persuaded to look upon the Arabian Gulf nations as neighbours if not partners, instead of followers or satellite countries and warned that Bahrain faced a strategic threat and its security was crucial for the GCC.
In his view, Iranians were planning to take the northern part of the Gulf by setting up some projects in Shatt Al Arab [dividing Kuwait and Iraq] apart from the occupied islands belonging to the UAE since they wanted to establish a strategic point. In this scenario one had to be concerned about the security of Bahrain among all the GCC countries.
The governments and rulers of the GCC countries are not entirely oblivious to these threats and lately have been closely watching and cooperating on joint defence and security strategies. But it has to be a constant watch and a high degree of vigil.