It is gratifying to note the US finally accepting that Iran is indeed a filibuster. In Washington last week, while meeting Bahrain’s ambassador, chairman of the committee on foreign affairs at the US House of Representatives Edward Royce condemned Iran’s continued interference in Bahrain while rejecting Tehran’s bid to destabilize the countries in the region. Better late than never.
There was a time not long ago when the American ambassador had been hobnobbing with the recalcitrant opposition in Bahrain, holding meetings with its hardliners to advise them on how to conduct themselves at the government-sponsored talks to obtain the maximum mileage.
Rap on The Knuckles For USA
Until he got a solid rap on the knuckles in the form of a rejoinder signed by a number of Bahrain MPs and submitted to the King to expel the envoy.
For many years, Washington also consistently refused to take note of the glaring incidents of Iranian support to thugs and terrorists by way of arms, cash and training quite evident in the immediate aftermath of the February 2011 troubles, always raising specious human rights issues. But that seems to be history now.
American Ulterior Motives
While there is no denying that what Mr Royce has said now is the truth, the question is, what has made the US mellow its stance since the US policy-makers never do anything without an ulterior motive or meaning to it.
One interpretation is that at the point where the US ambassador to Bahrain was trying to score brownie points with the pro-Iran elements in the Bahrain opposition, that was also the time when the US was desperately trying to cobble together a nuclear non-proliferation deal with Tehran in tandem with its European allies.
Thus, it made sense to keep the Iranians in good humour and ignore their multi-pronged anti-Bahrain and anti-GCC activities, so as not to ruffle the pace of nuclear negotiations. These activities included Iran’s full backing for Syria’s Assad while Saudi Arabia wanted him out so the country could return to normalcy. That kept the dispute with the United Arab Emirates [UAE] in relation to three key islands in the Gulf in suspended animation. It also covertly and overtly backed the minority Houthi rebels leading to anarchy in Yemen. To control that situation, Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia had to deploy men and arms, which resulted in numerous fatalities.
The Iranian establishment-inspired attacks on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Meshed, which came later, only proved that Iran was neither serious nor in a hurry to mend fences with the Arab Gulf states. But with the nuclear deal behind it, the US could now look to mending fences with the Arab Gulf states.
Hence Mr Royce’s candid admission.
A US Policy Failure
Another reason for the American swing could be that it became clear to Bahrain which way the stream of official American opinion was flowing. Realpolitik then dictated that Bahrain should dilute the American presence and influence on its soil and in terms of its policy decisions.
The most visible consequences of its policy therefore were the resurrection of the British Royal Navy base in Bahrain, shut down 45 years ago, next to the American base. To poke the Americans in the eye, no less a person than the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond travelled to Bahrain to break ground there.
The other was to expand its ties with Russia which culminated in the King’s visit to Russia last week for talks with President Vladimir Putin.
No Chance That Iran Cares
But while the US stands chastened, has Iran taken note of Royce’s pronouncement?
Doesn’t look like it! And it is unlikely the US would make any move to persuade Tehran to see reason.