Manama says Tehran and its regional allies sponsor “terrorist cells” to destabilize Bahrain

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Jan 22, 2018
Manama says Tehran and its regional allies sponsor “terrorist cells” to destabilize Bahrain

Bahrain’s interior minister said on Sunday that Tehran and its regional proxies are supporting militant groups that carry out terrorist actions on the Bahraini soil, Iranian and Arab media reported. Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa specifically accused the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-linked Iraqi militia groups of sponsoring “terrorist groups” to destabilize the island Arab country. He added that the Bahraini security forces have carried out 105 pre-emptive operations and arrested 47 members of three terrorist organizations. Many of those arrested are reportedly from the Saraya al-Ashtar, Saraya al-Muqawama al-Sha’biya and Saraya al-Mukhtar groups. The minister also claimed that the security forces have foiled many terrorist plots against officials, security forces and public institutions. The Iranian government, however, rejected the allegations as “unfounded.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi said the Bahrain government’s claim that it has foiled 19 terrorist attacks plotted by Iran “spread lies and should be ignored.”

Comment: It is not the first time that the government of Bahrain accuses the Islamic Republic of inciting violence and plotting attacks against the country.

In November, Manama claimed that Iran was directly involved in an oil pipeline explosion near the Bahraini capital. According to the Bahraini Interior Ministry, the blast was the latest example of a “terrorist act” under instructions from Tehran, the state-run Bahrain News Agency reported. In a Twitter message, the minister also called the attack a “dangerous Iranian escalation aimed at terrorizing citizens and damaging the world’s oil industry.” The explosion forced Saudi Arabia to temporarily suspend pumping oil into Bahrain for security reasons.

Last year, Bahraini officials also repeatedly complained that the IRGC supported groups that attacked Bahraini security forces. In late March, for example, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior said it dismantled an Iran-backed group that planned terrorist attacks in the island kingdom, including assassination of high-profile government officials. According to state-run Bahrain News Agency, 11 of the 14 individuals arrested were suspected of having received training in Iraq by the IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah. The report added that the arrests were made following intelligence operations that tracked the suspects’ multiple trips to Iran. The Ministry of Interior further alleged that the group operated under the leadership of Murtadha Majeed Al Sindi and Qassim Abdullah Ali, two individual who reportedly live in Iran and are designated as terrorist by the Bahraini government.

In February, Bahrain had also announced the arrest of several individuals who had reportedly received military training in Iran and Iraq. “As part of the search and investigation that led to the foiling of the fleeing fugitives via the sea to Iran on February 9, a number of terror cells that were about to carry out terrorist plots have been dismantled through a comprehensive security plan,” Bahrain News Agency (BNA) had reported.

The reports of Iran’s alleged connection with terrorist plots in Bahrain have not only further strained relations between Tehran and Manama but they are also worrisome to the US military as its Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain – a strategic location that helps the US Navy to ensure the security of maritime activity in the region, support the fight on terrorism, and monitor Iran’s subversive activities across the Middle East.