Terror Scourge Continues to Haunt Bahrain

Just when it looked like the subversive activity and terror attacks in Bahrain had tapered off and waned, the island kingdom was jolted last week with a terrorist blast on one of the leading highways.

A gas cylinder was used for the purpose, though mercifully, no one died. However, five policemen on duty were injured. Shi’ite militant group Saraya Wa’ad Allah [God’s Promise Brigade] took responsibility for the blast in a Twitter message. Ironically, the policemen were guarding a procession by Shi’ite Muslims marking the occasion of Ashura which commemorates the death of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein some 1,400 years ago.

The Iran-backed outfit said the blast was its response to the execution of three convicted terrorists in January. They were executed on being found guilty of a bombing – not far from where the blast took place – in which three policemen were killed in 2014. Two years ago the same outfit had organised a blast in which two police officers were killed and six injured.

ashura in bahrain. Terror Scourge Continues to Haunt Bahrain.
Ashura in Bahrain.

Iran and Qatar

Is it any coincidence that the latest blast occurred just as Iran had insinuated its way into the affections of the neighbouring Qatar and strengthened its hold on its rulers who have been harbouring inimical intentions against Bahrain since the advent of the abortive Arab Spring in 2011?

Since the declaration of a boycott of Qatar in June by the Arab Quartet of Bahrain Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt the geopolitical nature of the Arabian Gulf is altering imperceptibly. While three of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – of which Qatar is a part – have boycotted Doha, the remaining two i.e. Kuwait and Oman have adopted a neutral stand with Kuwait acting as the facilitator of any negotiations.

But whereas the common thread binding the GCC before the boycott was that the six Arab countries maintained varying degrees of links with Iran ranging from no embassies and no trade to a low-profile interaction given that Iran’s copybook stood badly smudged in their reckoning, post-boycott Qatar has gone completely into a no-holds-barred relationship with Tehran.

In light of historical events this poses a grave threat to Bahrain’s sovereignty. It is no secret that Iran has been trying very hard to subvert the Bahrain regime for many years through its sleeper cells, Shi’ite political societies, overt and covert aid, operations, training, arms supply, provocative pronouncements by its clergy, and even claims to the island itself.

It is also no longer a secret that when the troubles started in Bahrain in February 2011, the former Qatari prime minister and the head of the largest Bahrain-based Shi’ite political society, Ali Salman, were in negotiations to overthrow the legitimate Bahrain government.

Since there is hardly any distance between Qatar and Bahrain, the latter’s Hawar Islands being within sight of the Qatar mainland, the close ties between the two misadventurous allies constitute a poisonous combination for Bahrain’s political health and stability. And the latest blast is a pointer in that direction.

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.