Is Iran Listening to Bahrain Call to Be More Responsible?

At the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister made yet another forceful plea to achieve lasting peace and security in the Middle East in general and the Arab Gulf region in particular. In this context he also suggested “building a robust political, economic and military alliance between responsible countries of the region, that understand the threats of the moment and the requirements of the future.”

The dangers facing the Arab Gulf were many, he said, while making a particular reference to “the Iranian regime with its policy of destruction, overthrowing states and their institutions.” Bahrain was not alone in taking Iran to task at the world forum. A US State Department report and the fifth report of the UN Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2231(2015) also pointed in the same direction.

For instance when the Bahrain minister accused Iran of backing the militias behind the coup in Yemen “to be able to continue its criminal and hostile activities threatening neighbouring countries by means of ballistic missiles against civilian populated areas in Saudi Arabia,” the UN report’s observations backed this view by confirming Iran was the origin of those missiles posing “serious threats to peace and security in the region as well as to the major international shipping lanes, the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb.”

bahrain speaks at un
Bahrain Speaks at UN

And the minister said that Iran aspired “to impose its hegemony on the region by packaging and exporting its miserable revolution under which the Iranian people suffer from tyranny, oppression and injustice and … disseminates an extremist ideology that has become a constant feature of its foreign policy.” The US State Department report went further to support this view. It gave details specific to Bahrain and how the island nation was being terrorised by the powers-that-be in Tehran.

According to the report, the Quds Force, the overseas arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, supported terrorist groups such as Saraya Al Ashtar (Al Ashtar Brigades) in Bahrain [until it was unmasked] and provided cover for its intelligence operations. It has claimed responsibility for numerous fatal attacks in Bahrain and the UK and the US have declared it to be a terrorist organisation.

“Through the IRGC-QF, Iran supports several US-designated terrorist groups, providing funding, training, weapons and equipment,” the report said, adding: “Among the groups receiving support from Iran are Lebanese Hizbollah, Hamas, Palestine Islamic Jihad, Kata’ib Hizballah in Iraq, and Al Ashtar Brigades in Bahrain. The Iranian regime has also been documented facilitating travel by senior leaders of some of these groups to Iran, often under the guise of religious education.”

According to the State Department report, apart from supporting terrorist groups, developing ballistic missiles, carrying out illicit financing activities and cyber security threats, abuse of human rights and environmental damage Iran also poses a threat to maritime security in the Arab Gulf region and the Red Sea.

But the point is, despite the US and UN reports which tend to condemn Iran in unison, will there be any Bahrain-specific action against Iran by the world powers. Consider that Bahrain has suffered the most from its terrorist and disruptive activities and constantly faces the most virulent threats from it.

When US President Donald Trump last week denounced Iran at the UN Security Council and invited world powers to work with him to ensure the Iranian regime changed its behaviour, the French President speaking immediately after Trump intriguingly declared that the concerns about Iran could not be reduced to “a policy of sanctions and containment,” implying a dialogue and peaceful means might do the trick.

That’s a false hope and a dismal expectation given Iran still hopes to develop a nuclear bomb which should place it way above any regional power west of Hormuz in terms of muscle power and strengthen its hegemonic aspirations. In a scenario where world powers seem divided on how to deal with Iran, would anybody listen to the woes of an island nation like Bahrain?

Brij Sharma
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.