Bahrain: A Soft Target of Iran
by: Yenus S. A. Rahman / 13 December 2012
Political instability in the Middle East may be attributed to the behaviour of the current Iranian regime’s attempt to assume regional hegemony through the exportation of sectarianism, which has reached a variety of regional states including: Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. It is of the latter of these, where attention must be placed since it is the most vulnerable state in the region and Iranian claims are followed by action.
Due to its geographical proximity and geopolitical importance, Bahrain has attracted the attention of the Mullahs and Ayatollahs in Tehran since the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Though many covert attempts were made by successive Iranian regimes to destabilise the Bahrain Government, it has now been more coordinated and focused than during last year’s unrest which compromised Bahrain’s national security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
Iran’s inclusion of Bahrain uprising in the agenda of the 5+1 earlier this year, which took place in Moscow, was a clear indication of its continuous interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain, while it was clear that the meeting has nothing to do with Bahrain’s interests. This scenario occurred at a time when Iran is attempting to control, if not to dominate, the GCC politically, economically and militarily.
Surprisingly, such circumstances have occurred due primarily to US miscalculations and short-sightedness.
For many years, Iranian military power was kept at bay by Iraq, during the reign of Saddam Hussein. When the US invaded Iraq – which decimated the country’s power (and social cohesion), Iran, it turned out, was a net benefactor. Indeed, the Islamic Republic made moves to consolidate its dominating position within Iraqi political, military and socio-economic structures, while intensifying its push to develop nuclear capabilities and deploying its sectarian ideology to Arab states.
Unrest in Bahrain was not part of the so-called Arab spring though did retain some socio-economic issues which themselves were partially buoyed by the youthful movements in the region, and by the somewhat measured response of the Bahraini Government to address long-standing social issues.
However, legitimate demands were eclipsed when the remnants of old opposition and insurgent groups, with histories of destabilising Bahrain, and alleged ties to Hezbollah took centre stage. After that, the uprising was hijacked and dramatically changed course.
The Bahraini Government then embarked on several policies: First, it deployed riot police to re-establish public order. Secondly, it sought outside military support from the GCC’s Peninsula Shield to secure basic installations. Thirdly, it ordered the formation of an international body (BICI), to monitor human rights abuses. Fourthly, it sought to provide a forum for national dialogue. Fifthly, it fundamentally restructured the security services in the country. Sixthly, it established compensation funds for all victims. Finally, it allowed the trial of those convicted in military courts to be tried anew in civilian courts.
Despite the containment of unrest, the Iranian threat remains, not only against Bahrain; against all GCC countries. The alleged support of rebels in the Eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia, the continued occupation of Abu Musa and Greater and Lower Tunb, failed attempts at espionage in Kuwait; such are mere indications that Iran continues to project its influence into the Gulf to achieve very narrow self-interests.
Yet the GCC countries are not without their own power base. Indeed, a look around the Gulf reveals a variety of capabilities that may be used to deter the Islamic Republic’s continued attempts at regional destabilisation.
For Bahrain two trump cards exist, both of which rely on its Gulf neighbours: the strengthening of its defence capability (and deterrence factor) as part of Peninsula Shield, and further littoral integration into (eventually) a Gulf Union.
The long-term solution to political instability of the region lies in regime change in Iran; regime change which would empower the Iranian people by disempowering those who have restricted the emergence of civil society, re: the existing religious and political order. The international community should give due weight to this issue rather than sitting in unending rounds of nuclear talks which only serve to bring the delegates back to square one, and prolong change in Iran.