Bahrain fears aggressive moves by Iran

Bahrain has been openly critical of the Iranian regime recently, contending that "cells" are actively planning attacks on the tiny GCC nation -- attacks that could topple the balance of power there. As evidence, some point to last July, when Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani issued a threat and a bomb attack killed two Bahrain policemen. 

Officials also claim that some Iranian citizens have been training in camps maintained by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, and that Iran has been smuggling weapons through marine routes. They say that although the United States has reached an arms deal with Iran, it does not mean Iran's gulf coast neighbors will turn a blind eye to such activities.

“We need to address Iran's relations with its neighbors in the gulf,” Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa. “This was not included in the nuclear deal, and this is a serious impediment to Iran having a more normal relationship with the outside world.”

Al Khalifa said Iranians are stockpiling weapons to overcome any missile defense systems that might be put into place in the Gulf Coast area. Bahrain currently contains a significant number of U.S. military installations.

For insight into the tense situation, the Gulf News Journal talked with Bob Darvish, an advisory board member of the Muslim American Leadership Association and frequent participant in media reports on global politics.

“There's always going to be that kind of conflict,” Darvish said, citing tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, the interplay of many various Islamic sects in the region, and political forces. “It's a combination of different interests.” 

Part of the problem, Darvish said, is a set of simmering regional conflicts built up over centuries. For example, Saudi interests overthrew a traditional ruling family in Yemen in the middle of the 20th century. Now, Yemen is involved in a boiling civil war, with Iranian and Saudi Arabian powers waging a proxy war against each other.

“We look away when Saudis oppress the Houthis in Yemen,” Darvish said.

Darvish described Saudi Arabia as “powder keg,” citing religious and political factions in the kingdom that he views as less than politically stable.

He said that in Bahrain's case, it is a small country stuck in the middle of a war between higher-level Islamic forces.

“They really don't want to be involved,” Darvish said.

As far America's role in the region, Darvish called it a “balancing act.”

“Ideally, Iran would be a free democracy,” Darvish said, suggesting that if Iranian-American relations improved through serious changes in Iran, the U.S. could push further away from Saudi Arabia and interests that have a lot of intersection with radical Wahhabi Islamic sects.

“My personal hope is that the Iranian government becomes more democratic,” Darvish said.