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Iran 'still poses a major threat'

BAHRAIN'S uprising was "hijacked" by Iran which continues to pose a threat to regional security, according to a new study.

The study explores how the Bahraini movement, which initially had true democratic demands, was taken over by extremists linked to Hizbollah and Iran in a bid to interfere in the GCC's internal affairs.

Bahrain-based journalist Yenus Rahman published the report, Bahrain: A Soft Target for Iran, in the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS).

The study states that the legitimate demands were "eclipsed when the remnants of old opposition and insurgent groups, with histories of destabilising Bahrain, and alleged ties to Hizbollah" took centre stage.

This changed the uprising, which Mr Rahman, said was "hijacked."

"Unrest in Bahrain was not part of the so-called Arab Spring though it did retain some socio-economic issues which themselves were partially buoyed by youthful movements in the region," he added.

He attributed the political instability in the Middle East to Iran's attempts to assume regional hegemony by exporting sectarianism, adding it reached regional countries including Bahrain, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

Mr Rahman explained that Bahrain was the most vulnerable state in the region that requires more attention and security as Iranian claims to the country increases.

Focused

"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," he said in the study.

"Though many covert attempts were made by successive Iranian regimes to destabilise the Bahrain government, it has now been more co-ordinated and focused than during last year's unrest which compromised Bahrain's national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Mr Rahman also criticised, in the triannual publication, Iran's inclusion of Bahrain's uprising in the agenda of the 5+1 (permanent UN Security Council members; Britain, China, France, Russia and the US plus Germany) session earlier this year, which took place in Moscow.

"It was a clear indication of its continuous interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain, while it was clear that the meeting had 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," he said.

Mr Rahman also chronologically detailed the power of the Iranian military, which was kept at bay by Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign.

"When the US invaded Iraq, which decimated the country's power and social cohesion, Iran, it turned out, was a net benefactor," he explained in the study.

"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."

Mr Rehman said Bahrain has initiated several reform policies following the events of last year's unrest, including setting up the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

However, despite the "measured response" by the Bahrain government, the Iranian threat still looms.

"It (Bahrain government) sought to provide a forum for national dialogue, restructured the security services in the country and established compensation funds for all victims. Finally, it allowed the trial of those convicted in military courts to be tried anew in civilian courts

"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 are mere indications that Iran continues to project its influence into the Gulf to achieve very narrow self-interests."

He said to strengthen itself Bahrain has two trump cards which rely on its Gulf neighbours; the strengthening of its defence capability as part of the GCC Peninsula Shield and integration into a Gulf Union.

"The long-term solution to political instability in 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," he said in the report.

"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." sandy@gdn.com.bh



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