Tiny Gulf state says Iran is providing sanctuary and financial support for terrorists planning attacks aimed at overthrowing pro-Western monarchy
The tiny Gulf state of Bahrain has accused Iran of waging a campaign of “state-sponsored terrorism” aimed at overthrowing the country’s pro-Western ruling monarchy.
Bahraini security officials claim Iran is providing sanctuary and financial support for terrorists planning attacks in the kingdom, and say that scores of Bahraini citizens have received training in various terrorist techniques in camps operated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Speaking during a visit to London on Tuesday, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, Barhain’s Foreign Minister, claimed Iran had embarked on “the path of conquest and power projection” against neighbouring Gulf states.
“We are fighting state-sponsored terrorism,” said Sheikh Khalid. “There are cells operating in Bahrain that report directly to their superiors in Iran.”
Since Iran signed its controversial nuclear deal with the West in June, Bahraini officials say they have identified a significant increase in Iranian-backed terrorist activity in the sheikhdom.
In July two Bahraini policemen were killed and six others injured after a bomb attack carried out by terrorists the Bahrainis claim were trained by Iranian-backed militiamen.
Bahraini security officials have also intercepted attempts by the Revolutionary Guards to smuggle weapons and ammunition into the kingdom by sea.
Sheikh Khalid said that, while the Western powers regarded the nuclear deal as heralding a new era in relations between Iran and the outside world, the agreement has had no impact on Iran’s aggressive attitude towards its neighbours in the Gulf region.
Apart from sponsoring terror cells in countries like Bahrain, the Iranians were also backing attempts by Houthi rebels in Yemen to seize control of the country from the democratically-elected government.
“We need to address Iran’s relations with its neighbours in the Gulf,” said Sheikh Khaled. “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.”
Claims that Iran is backing attempts to destabilise Bahrain will be greeted with deep concern by Britain, which regards Bahrain as a vital ally in maintaining security in the oil-rich Gulf region.
The kingdom is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Britain recently signed an agreement to establish a permanent Royal Navy base in Bahrain.
But the country has been beset by sectarian conflict since anti-government demonstrations erupted four years ago, with Shia protesters involved in violent clashes with security forces loyal to Bahrain’s Sunni royal family.
While the Bahraini government has been heavily criticised for its heavy-handed response, Bahraini officials claim Iran has been encouraging Shia extremists to attack the government.
Now Bahrain fears Iran will use the billions of dollars it is due to receive when the sanctions are lifted to embark on a massive arms build up designed to intimidate its neighbours in the Gulf.
“Iran’s strategy appears to be on of saturation,” said Sheikh Khalid. The Iranians are “stockpiling vast quantities of rockets to the level that can overwhelm any missile defence system in the Gulf.
“We fear that funds diverted to the Revolutionary Guards following the lifting of sanctions will be utilized to further increase the threat of Iran’s missile programme.”