Flashpoint / Global 10 Nov 2022 Bahrain Share Facebook Twitter Email Print Back to Map I. Why it Matters Bahrain, close ally of Saudi Arabia, has endorsed the Trump administration’s aggressive posture against Iran. Manama’s longstanding suspicions of Iranian support for anti-government groups make Bahrain a flashpoint for regionalising an internal political struggle. II. Recent Developments 10 November 2022 CENTCOM announced that it had conducted a bomber task force mission “with thirteen partner nation air forces, showcasing the ability to rapidly deploy global airpower alongside coalition and regional partner forces and ensuring the security of this critical region”. View More 29 August 2022 President Raisi underlined “the development of neighbourly relations as the principles of [his administration’s] foreign policy”, while noting: “Our emphasis to the neighbours is that you should not pursue your security with the presence of Americans or outsiders in the region. The security of the region is in the hands of the countries of the region”. Referring to a potential next round of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Raisi maintained: “The Saudi side has obligations the fulfilment of which will open the way for further actions, and surely the diplomatic relations between the two countries depend on the implementation of these obligations”. View More 29 June 2022 Bahrain and Egypt issued a joint statement backing “Arab efforts to urge Iran to abide by the international principles of non-interference in the affairs of Arab countries, compliance with the principles of good neighbourliness and sparing the region all destabilising activities, including supporting armed militias and threatening maritime navigation and international trade lines”. The two also “affirmed support for the international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and ensure the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, boost the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [and] maintain the non-proliferation system”. View More 27 June 2022 The U.S., Israel, Bahrain and other members of the Negev Forum Steering Committee convened an inaugural meeting in Bahrain “to further coordinate… [the members’] collective efforts and advance a common vision for the region”. In a joint statement, participants said the “meeting demonstrates the strength of our relations, our shared commitment to cooperation and the important opportunities unlocked by improved relations between Israel and its neighbours, showing what can be achieved by working together to overcome shared challenges”. View More 9 June 2022 U.S. Central Command announced that “coalition and regional partner air forces joined two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses… on a presence patrol mission across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility” the previous day. A senior U.S. commander highlighted that “these highly coordinated efforts demonstrate our combined ability to provide global reach and joint security to the region”. View More 6 June 2022 The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and four other members of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC) announced sanctions designations against three individuals for being “part of two networks directed by and providing financial support to the IRGC-QF and its terrorist proxy Hizbollah”, and “two terrorist groups affiliated with the IRGC” active primarily in Bahrain. The designees had been previously sanctioned by the U.S. View More 1 June 2022 The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) ministerial council underlined “the need for negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file, and any future negotiations with Iran, to include its destabilising behaviour in the region, its sponsorship of terrorism and sectarian militias, its missile program and the safety of international navigation and oil installations”. The ministers also emphasised “the need for the GCC states to participate in those negotiations and all regional and international discussions and meetings related to this matter”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson described the statement as “groundless and unjustifiable” with respect to the JCPOA, while highlighting: “Iran has always considered neighbourly interactions and cooperation as a solution to regional issues and welcomes all initiatives regarding the development of relations”. View More 13 April 2022 The U.S. Fifth Fleet’s commander announced the establishment of a new naval task force as part of the 34-nation Combined Maritime Forces to patrol the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab beginning 17 April. Admiral Brad Cooper said the initiative would “enhance security and stability in the Red Sea and the region”, adding that “the standup of this organisation really reflects a regional consensus on the importance of maritime security in these bodies of water”. View More 1 April 2022 U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan noted that the Negev Summit participants had “agreed to form permanent working groups with an aim to improve security and livelihoods across the region”, adding: “We now aim to further expand this circle of like-minded states”. View More 28 March 2022 Top diplomats from Israel, the U.S., Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt and the UAE convened the Negev Summit which, according to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid would become “a permanent forum”. “This new architecture, the shared capabilities we are building, intimidates and deters our common enemies - first and foremost Iran and its proxies - they certainly have something to fear”, he asserted. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson condemned the summit, cautioned against Israeli “sedition in the region” and expressed “Iran’s readiness to cooperate and expand bilateral relations with the countries of the region to counter the Zionist-American conspiracy”. View More 26 March 2022 Romania signed on to the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC), joining eight other countries in the initiative. View More 22 March 2022 A U.S. diplomatic spokesperson indicated that “we have been in close consultation… with our Gulf partners” regarding the Vienna talks, adding: “We are facing a shared challenge and, in some ways, a shared threat from Tehran. We’ve seen that in terms of Tehran’s support for terrorist groups, for regional proxies, its use of malicious cyber activity, the way in which it is funding and supplying some of the movements that are creating a much more volatile, unstable region. So, for our part, we will continue to partner closely with our partners in the Gulf, with our partners throughout the Middle East, to push back on Iran’s malign activity”. View More 14 March 2022 The U.S. along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait conducted an exercise aiming “to enhance integration… in the area of air and missile defence”. A U.S. military official maintained that “in the face of the increasing threats we all face from malign actors in the region, we designed this combined exercise to enhance regional civil and military interoperability and process development and hone the skills necessary to defend our homelands and bases from the expanding air and missile threats”. View More 9 March 2022 IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi visited Manama and met with his Bahraini counterpart and other defence officials. Kohavi was accompanied on his trip by the IDF’s senior officer working on Iran-related affairs. View More 9 March 2022 The U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) held Working Groups on Integrated Air and Missile Defence and Maritime Security in Riyadh. Participants denounced “Iran’s malign behaviour through proxies and direct use of advanced ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Iran has used these weapons and supported terrorist and other armed groups to conduct hundreds of attacks in the region”. They further emphasised “the importance of strengthening the ability of the GCC countries to collectively address these threats”, noting too “the importance of having advancing integrated defence initiatives” as well as prospective “joint training and exercises to prevent Iran from holding the region at risk”. View More 2 March 2022 Meeting with Bahrain’s crown prince, the U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin remarked that “strong partners are especially important given the threats we face today, including Iran’s support for terrorism and its illicit supply of weapons across the region. We’ll work together with you to confront these threats, and of course, we remain committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon”. Austin also noted that “we’re going to continue to work together with Bahrain, Israel and our regional partners to strengthen air defences, counter unmanned aerial systems and to bolster maritime security”. View More 28 February 2022 Secretary of State Antony and his Bahraini counterparts inaugurated the second U.S.-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue”. View More 21 February 2022 Speaking alongside the Emir of Qatar, President Raisi remarked that “Iran seeks to help strengthen and promote regional relations… The countries of the region should pursue and operate crises and issues within the region through further consultations and talks”. “I extend my hand of friendship to all countries in the region, especially our neighbours, in the interests of the nations and maximum interaction”, he remarked. Raisi also told the Qatari Emir that “the expansion of the Zionist regime’s [ie, Israel’s] presence in the region is to the detriment of all countries, because this regime will overshadow the stability and security of other countries”. View More 21 February 2022 In a joint statement with the EU, GCC ministers “stressed that a full and effective implementation of the JCPOA can contribute to comprehensive and lasting efforts to ensure that the Gulf region remains permanently free of nuclear weapons and help address other regional issues”. The communique also condemned “in the strongest terms” Huthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE. View More 15 February 2022 Prime Minister Naftali Bennet visited Manama and met with Bahrain’s king and other senior officials. According to a joint statement, “the leaders discussed expanding strategic and security relations to address regional challenges, including nuclear threats, terrorist activity and religious extremism”. During his visit, Bennett asserted that “we will fight Iran and its followers in the region night and day. We will aid our friends in strengthening peace, security and stability, whenever we are asked to do so”. “Over recent years, we have strengthened our military cooperation with countries in the region, whether Arab or non-Arab”, Bennet remarked. “We all understand that we face the same challenges, so why not work together to tackle them?”. View More 12 February 2022 Bahrain’s foreign ministry confirmed reports that an Israeli military officer would be posted in the country, as “part of arrangements related to an international coalition that includes more than 34 countries”. A U.S. official noted that the appointment was “about keeping the lines of communication open” between Israel and U.S. forces headquartered in Manama. View More 3 February 2022 The defence ministers of Israel and Bahrain inked a memorandum of understanding that, according to an Israeli readout, would “help advance intelligence cooperation, a framework for exercises and cooperation between the countries’ defence industries”. Speaking in Bahrain, Benny Gantz asserted that “we must strengthen the ‘moderate camp’… Our formal relations allow us to come in and work together against shared threats”. He also visited the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet base in Manama and stated that “[cooperation] is a security need of the first order in light of the growing challenges on the maritime front in particular and in the region in general… We are willing to help, to take part in joint operational activities, in order to ensure stability and so that our friends can continue to exist and to prosper securely, and we will also be better protected from the different threats facing us”. View More 31 January 2022 The U.S. Navy announced the commencement of the International Maritime Exercise (IMX) 2022, described as “the Middle East region’s largest maritime exercise… [that] includes 9,000 personnel and up to 50 ships from more than 60 partner nations and international organizations”. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel were among the participants. View More 20 December 2021 GCC and UK foreign ministers jointly underscored that “this is the last opportunity to restore the JCPOA as Iran’s continued nuclear escalation is permanently eroding the benefits of the deal and undermining regional and international security”, adding: “the JCPOA is the best avenue towards inclusive, and more lasting diplomatic efforts to ensure regional security in a Gulf region permanently free of nuclear weapons”. They further raised “grave concern about the escalation in Iran’s destabilising activities in the region” and denounced “the proliferation of advanced ballistic missiles and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) used by Iran and its proxies in hundreds of attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson characterised the communique as “baseless” and maintained: “[Iran] considers the means of resolution of the regional problems to lie in interaction and cooperation, and therefore welcomes whatever constructive initiative in this area”. View More 14 December 2021 The Supreme Council the Gulf Cooperation Council voiced willingness “to cooperate and deal seriously and effectively with the Iranian nuclear file”, emphasised “the need for the GCC countries to participate in any negotiations with Iran” and denounced “Iran for failing to adhere to its international commitments regarding Uranium enrichment”. The GCC further underlined “the need to address the destabilising behaviour of [Iran in] the region and support extremist sectarian militias… the Iranian missile program, including ballistic and cruise missiles and drones, the safety of international navigation and oil installations and the continuation of coordination and consultation with brotherly and friendly countries in this regard”. They also condemned “Iran's interference into Yemen’s domestic affairs and smuggling weapons to Huthi militias”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson condemned the statement and asserted: “the Islamic Republic does not brook any interference in its peaceful nuclear energy program, its defensive missile program and the issues that have to do with its military and deterrent defensive policies”. View More 9 December 2021 Following Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salam’s visit to Doha, Saudi Arabia and Qatar jointly highlighted “the importance of cooperation and dealing seriously and effectively with Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs with all its components and repercussions… emphasising the principles of good neighbourliness and respect for the UN resolutions and international legitimacy and sparing the region from all destabilising activities”. The following day, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also issued a joint statement “stressing the importance of cooperation and dealing serious and effectively with Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs”, and urging “the concerned parties to take into account the interests, security and stability of the countries of the region”. Relatedly, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan underscored that “we continue to support a return to the deal. But we see it as incomplete; any return [to the JCPOA] should be only the first step towards a longer and stronger deal… The current deal doesn’t protect us from an Iranian nuclear or military capability”. View More 6 December 2021 Meeting the UAE’s National Security Advisor, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, affirmed that “warm and friendly relations with neighbours as well as an exchange of economic, trade and investment capacities are the Islamic Republic of Iran’s main foreign policy priorities… Through cooperation and collective efforts, countries in the Persian Gulf region can both bring prosperity to their nations and also play an important role as an energy hub in the regional and international economy”. During a separate meeting, President Raisi asserted that “the security of the countries of the region is intertwined and Iran supports the security of the Persian Gulf littoral states”. View More 22 November 2021 Bahrain’s Interior Ministry reported the arrest of “terrorist elements who have launched plans and preparations for terrorist operations”, adding that “weapons and explosives from Iran were seized with the elements associated with terrorist groups in Iran”. View More 18 November 2021 Officials from the U.S., Germany, France and the UK, GCC, Egypt and Jordan convened in Saudi Arabia and conferred on “the political and security situation in the region, including Iran’s actions… [and] the upcoming seventh round of talks on the return of Iran and the U.S. to mutual, full compliance with the JCPOA”. The U.S. and E3 hailed “regional partners’ efforts to deescalate tensions and promote dialogue in the region”, and “affirmed their determination to continue to address broader security concerns of the region”. They emphasised too that “enhanced regional dialogue and a return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA would benefit the entire Middle East, allow for more regional partnerships and economic exchange, with long-lasting implications for growth and the well-being of all people there, including in Iran”. View More 17 November 2021 U.S. and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) officials held a “Working Group on Iran” in Riyadh and denounced “a range of aggressive and dangerous Iranian policies, including the proliferation and direct use of advanced ballistic missiles and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)”. They concurred “that Iran’s nuclear program is of great concern”, and also “that Iran’s support to armed militias across the region and its ballistic missile program pose a clear threat”. According to a joint statement, “members of the GCC briefed on their efforts to build effective diplomatic channels with Iran to prevent, resolve or de-escalate conflicts, backed by strong deterrence and defence cooperation with the U.S.”, underscoring that “deeper economic ties after the lifting of U.S. sanctions under the JCPOA are in the mutual interest of the region”, and warning: “these diplomatic efforts will not succeed if Iran continues to provoke a nuclear crisis”. View More 10 November 2021 The U.S., Israel, Bahrain and the UAE started a five-day “multilateral maritime security operations exercise in the Red Sea”. The commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) maintained that “maritime collaboration helps safeguard freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade, which are essential to regional security and stability”. Commenting on the drill, an unnamed Israeli officer told reporters that the “[Iranian] presence is something that we need to push back as much as possible from the State of Israel, from the Red Sea, from the areas that harm our freedom to sail… In order to do that, we need to make our partnerships tighter”. View More 31 October 2021 A senior Israeli military official told a Bahraini newspaper that “we still believe in the need for a diplomatic solution and we believe that with the correct moves, which must be rigid – some of which have not yet been tried and some of which are diplomatic efforts – it is possible to return Iran to the negotiating table… But when you have in front of you a side that is aggressive, which is building military capabilities, we have to be preparing for other scenarios”. He also asserted that “if in the past, Israel relied on the principle that we must defend ourselves by ourselves, now we have changed our strategy in order to cooperate with our partners because we have partners in the region”, adding that the Abraham Accords “open the way for a moderate alliance… that may join in the future against the extremist axis in the region led by Iran”. View More 26 October 2021 U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), alongside with Bahrain, conducted a two-day drill which it said “marked the first time NAVCENT integrated USVs [unmanned surface vessels] with manned assets at sea… [and] the first time for NAVCENT’s integration of USVs with manned assets at sea alongside partner forces”. NAVCENT’s commander stated that “working with our regional partners on unmanned systems integration is crucial to enhancing collective maritime domain awareness… Bahrain, as our first regional partner to collaborate with Task Force 59 during an at-sea exercise, demonstrates the strengthening of our strategic relationship”. View More 30 September 2021 Speaking alongside with his Bahraini counterpart in Manama, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid remarked that “together with all our friends in the Gulf, we are leading a brave coalition of moderates who are looking ahead to create a prosperous future of stability and tolerance… Those who are reclusive will disappear. Those who cooperate will lead both the world and the Middle East”. He went on to say that “our opportunities [with Bahrain] are shared, our threats are shared, and they are not far from here”. The two officials also met with the U.S. commander of NAVCENT, and held “a discussion on regional maritime security cooperation”. Iranian Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian subsequently warned that “Tel Aviv will bring nothing but insecurity for Bahrain and the region”, and a diplomatic spokesperson, who claimed that “this stain will not be erased from the reputation of Bahrain’s rulers”, argued that “the people of the region will continue to oppose the process of normalisation of ties”. View More 23 September 2021 Secretary of State Antony Blinken and GCC ministers met and conferred on, inter alia, “pursuing diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, and countering Iran’s continued aggressive behaviour in the Gulf”. The following day, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley met with the Saudi foreign minister. View More 22 September 2021 Iran’s foreign minister joined senior officials from the Gulf in an Iraqi-chaired follow-up to the Baghdad Conference on Cooperation and Partnership, and remarked that Iran had “always emphasised that we need endogenous and indigenous security arrangements to create stability and security in the region”. Amirabdollahian underscored that “foreign presence and intervention in any form are contrary to the goals of peace and security in the region… the priority of the new government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to strengthen and develop relations with its neighbours and the region”. According to Iran’s Foreign Ministry, attendees reiterated “their support for the Iraqi government and people… and stressed the need to solve them through cooperation and mutual benefit and in accordance with the principles of international law, good neighbourliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries”. View More 16 September 2021 The Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) ministerial council voiced hope that the Raisi administration “would play a positive role in alleviating the tension and building trust between the GCC states” and Iran, and “that the nuclear talks would tackle Iran’s destabilising role in the region and its sponsorship of terrorist and sectarian militias as well as the country’s missile program, and the safety of international navigation and oil facilities”. The council went on to condemn “Iran’s failure to meet its nuclear obligations through accelerating uranium enrichment above the level needed for peaceful purposes”, calling on “Iran to back down from this move and cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson dismissed “any interference in its peaceful nuclear and missile programs as well as issues pertinent to its defence policies”, while contending that “the region needs a paradigm shift to rid itself of outside dependence and turn to constructive inter-regional interaction and go for inclusion rather than exclusion”. View More 9 September 2021 The Saudi foreign minister chaired a session of the Arab Ministerial Quartet Committee that discussed, inter alia, “strengthening joint coordination to stop Iranian interference in the region and its financing of the Huthi militia in Yemen and other terrorist groups”, as well as “the importance of imposing the mechanisms for a rapid and comprehensive inspection of all Iranian nuclear sites”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson dismissed what he described as “absurd accusations” by the grouping of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt. View More 8 August 2021 During a visit to Israel, a senior Bahraini diplomat argued that the JCPOA “fueled crises across the Middle East. It has increased the number of refugees that have fled into Europe. It has caused more instigation of extremism and hatred in many different regions across the Middle East… If you look into the crises across the Middle East, you will find one red thread that would across all those crises. You would find an Iranian finger”. He also noted Iran’s “continuous interference in domestic affairs in my country… Support of extremism and terrorism, continuous smuggling of arms and explosives and drugs and narcotics”. View More 29 July 2021 Bahrain’s High Criminal Court convicted Iran’s “Future Bank… the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian banks” on money laundering charges; Six Future Bank officials were also given five to ten years of imprisonment and fines. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson condemned the verdict, criticising the legal process as “distorted”. View More 25 July 2021 The Secretary-General of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was cited as saying that “Iran’s support for militias in the region should be included in ongoing talks in Vienna and the meetings should not be limited to only reviving the nuclear deal… Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of other countries poses a threat to the region and is a matter of concern”. View More 18 May 2021 CENTCOM Commander Kenneth McKenzie assessed that “the principal regional threat to the Gulf states is, of course, Iran… [and] among the Gulf states, there’s a great opportunity to continue to work together toward an integrated air and missile defence shield that will help them as they consider Iran in the future”. “There are lots of things we can do to help the Gulf states and not all of it involves the selling of military equipment”, he added. “A lot of these what we call tactics, techniques and procedures, are things we can work on together that will enhance our ability to defend against likely attacks from Iran or any other state”. McKenzie went on to underscore that “nothing Iran does keeps me up at night. We’re prepared to react to any eventuality that Iran might choose to have happen. I would urge them to continue the path of negotiation”. View More 7 May 2021 Marking Quds Day, Supreme Leader Khamenei contended that “Israel is not a country, rather it is a terrorist camp against the Palestinian nation and other Muslim nations. Fighting against this despotic regime is fighting against oppression and terrorism. And this is a collective responsibility”. Referring to the Abraham Accord normalising relations between Israel and some Gulf Arab states, Khamenei asserted that “these attempts will not get them anywhere. The downward movement of the Zionist enemy has started and it will not stop moving downward”. View More 30 April 2021 Meeting with the Kuwaiti prime minister after visits to Qatar, Iraq and Oman, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif remarked that “his tour of the region at a time when Vienna negotiations are underway indicates Iran’s special attention to regional issues and relations with neighbouring countries”. He also called for efforts to “further promote multilateral cooperation among regional countries”. “It is necessary that regional states rely on their own potential to secure constructive cooperation that would lead to further stability”, Zarif told his Kuwaiti counterpart. View More 27 April 2021 U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley reported a “good discussion… with our GCC partners regarding the status of JCPOA talks and regional security” as nuclear negotiations resumed in Vienna. The same day, senior Israeli and U.S. national security officials convened for discussions in Washington, and per a White House readout “discussed their serious concerns about advancements in Iran’s nuclear program in recent years”; the two sides also “agreed on the significant threat posed by Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region”, with the U.S. side expressing “President Biden’s unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself”. They also formed “an inter-agency working group to focus particular attention on the growing threat of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Precision Guided Missiles produced by Iran and provided to its proxies”. View More 27 April 2021 Referring to the Abraham Accords, CENTCOM Commander Kenneth McKenzie opined that “in the long term, particularly vis-a-vis Iran, a common or collective security approach is going to be the best way to ensure their malign activities don’t become terribly harmful in the region”, adding: “What you would like to see is, particularly the nations in the Gulf states, be able to share a common threat picture against Iran. And the threat from Iran is not a ground maneuver. It’s not maritime particularly. It's a fires thing, it’s missiles, it’s ballistic missiles, it’s land attack cruise missiles which fly low and its UASs”. “In the case of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two nations that are directly across the Gulf from the threat that is Iran. There are things we can do and will continue to do to improve their ability to defend themselves, particularly in the missile and air defense domain”, McKenzie noted. View More 14 April 2021 The GCC’s Secretary General wrote to P5+1 foreign ministers to affirm that JCPOA negotiations in Vienna “should not be limited to the Iranian nuclear program, but rather should include Iran’s destabilising behavior [and] ballistic missiles”. An Iranian diplomatic spokesperson responded: “These [GCC] irresponsible remarks are made in continuation of their anti-Iran remarks which are not meant to make a request for participation but seek to destroy the trend of technical talks in Vienna”. View More 2 April 2021 Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with his Bahraini counterpart discussing, inter alia, “developments in the political and security situations in the region, international efforts being made to address the dangers of the Iranian nuclear program and combating terrorist organisations”. View More 29 March 2021 Israel’s National Security Council released an assessment warning that “Iran will continue to operate in the near future to harm Israel targets”, noting the UAE, Bahrain and Kurdish areas in Iraq as theatres of concern. The NSC’s statement also noted that “officials in India have determined that Iran was behind the bombing” in January near Israel’s embassy. View More 17 March 2021 Foreign Minister Javad Zarif remarked that “we are prepared to talk to our neighbours in the region. The UN can provide an umbrella under UNSC Resolution 598, which gives our neighbours in the southern Persian Gulf the assurance that there will be an international umbrella”. “Some of our neighbours in the Persian Gulf have always tried to buy security through proxies”, he argued. “Now they want Netanyahu to be their proxy... What Netanyahu will do is to bring the war to their territory”. View More 17 March 2021 The Ministerial Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) denounced the 7 March drone attack on a Saudi port and missile strike on an Aramco facility in Dhahran. They also condemned “continuous attacks” by the Huthis, “affirming the GCC’s stand by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in taking all necessary and deterrent measures against these provocative acts”. The six Gulf countries urged “the international community to bear its responsibility toward these terrorist sabotage acts and the parties supporting them”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson subsequently contended that the “communique… lacks a realistic understating of surrounding developments and is in line with political pressure from the Saudi regime on the state members of the council”. View More 9 March 2021 Prime Minister Netanyahu maintained that “because of what I did, Iran has been set back for years, and because of what I will do, they will never, ever have a nuclear weapon”. Referring to the normalisation agreements with Bahrain, the UAE and others, Netanyahu opined that “they saw Israel as standing up against Iran, which threatens them. It threatens us more, with destruction, but they understood that so Israel became an indispensable ally”. View More 25 February 2021 Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke with Bahrain’s crown prince. According to a Bahraini readout, the two sides emphasised “the importance of regional participation in any negotiations on the Iranian nuclear deal, provided that these negotiations include broader issues to consolidate regional security and stability”. View More 15 February 2021 Meeting with the Qatari foreign minister in Tehran, President Rouhani asserted that “we remain committed to the Hormuz Peace Endeavour (HOPE) initiative and believe that peace and stability in the region will not be achieved except through cooperation and dialogue between the countries of the region, and it is the countries of the region that must decide for their own”. View More 9 February 2021 President Rouhani underlined that “Iran is ready to talk with all countries in the region and its neighbours, especially the Persian Gulf littoral countries, from Iraq to the six southern countries in accordance with UNSC Resolution 598, and settle regional problems and issues”. The following day, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reaffirmed “readiness for engagement and cooperation towards shared goals and objectives with our neighbours”, while indicating: “Our consistent aim in all our endeavors has been to build a more stable, peaceful and prosperous region”. “I hope that our neighbours will have learned that they cannot bank on outsiders to provide them with security. We need to rely on each other as geography promises that we will remain neighbours forever”, he added. View More 31 January 2021 The Bahraini High Criminal Court sentenced eighteen Bahraini individuals to imprisonment for “seeking to carry out terrorist operations in Bahrain on behalf of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)” and “receiving training abroad and possessing explosives since 2017”. View More 28 January 2021 Addressing Iran’s neighbours, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif remarked that “we have an opportunity to rethink regional security”, adding: “We know that security cannot be bought or established by stockpiling weapons. The only way to establish security and peace is extensive cooperation between the countries of the region, and Iran has always stated its readiness to promote cooperation”. View More 26 January 2021 Speaking alongside his Israeli and UAE counterparts, Bahrain’s foreign minister was quoted as referring to shared concerns over “Tehran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles and activities across the Middle East”, adding: “A joint regional position on these issues will exert greater influence on the U.S.”. He went on to say that “we must respond to Iran’s missile program, its support for proxies in the region, and its interference in the domestic affairs of states across the region… Any future agreement with Iran will need to reflect the new reality in the region and be acceptable to all states in the region”. View More 22 January 2021 Foreign Minister Javad Zarif maintained that Iran would “respond positively to any initiative for regional dialogue advanced in good faith”. He also contended that “neither the U.S. nor its European allies have the prerogative to lead or sponsor future talks. Rather, the Persian Gulf region needs an inclusive regional mechanism to encourage diplomacy and cooperation and to lower the risk of miscalculation and conflict”. He further referred to Iran’s Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE) proposal and said: “The invitation is still on the table”. View More 19 January 2021 Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hailed the Qatari foreign minister’s “call for inclusive dialogue” between Iran and GCC states, adding: “the solution to our challenges lies in collaboration to jointly form a ‘strong region’: peaceful, stable, prosperous and free from global or regional hegemony”. View More 15 January 2021 The U.S. designated Bahrain and the UAE as “Major Security Partners”, which according to the White House, underscored “an enduring commitment to economic and security cooperation”. View More 15 January 2021 Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., speaking alongside his Bahraini and Emirati counterparts, remarked that “we are definitely opposed to going back to the same [nuclear] deal and we hope the new administration will sit down with Israel… with its other allies in the region, talk to us because we live in the region”. “Israel and the Arab States are on the same page… when it comes to Iran”, he added, urging the incoming U.S. administration “to make sure that… the Iranian regime knows that either if they try to attack, not only the U.S., but attack American allies in the region, American interests in the region, that there will be a heavy price to pay”. Bahrain’s ambassador also hoped that President-elect Biden would “recognise that Iran’s malign activities and ballistic missile capabilities are equally as troublesome to Iran’s neighbours as its nuclear program is”. View More 6 January 2021 The GCC Supreme Council denounced “the Iranian existence in the Syrian territories and Iran’s interference in the Syrian affairs, demanding to expel all Iranian forces, Hizbollah militias and all sectarian militias that Iran recruited to work in Syria”. View More 6 January 2021 The GCC Supreme Council issued a communique condemning various aspects of Iran’s regional behaviour, missile program and nuclear activities. The Council also highlighted, inter alia, “the importance of building confidence between the GCC and Iran” and contended that “any negotiation process with Iran should include Iran’s destabilising behavior in the region, the Iranian missile program, including ballistic and cruise missiles and drones, and the Iranian nuclear program, stressing the need for the GCC member states to participate in future international negotiations concerning the Iranian nuclear program”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson deplored “the baseless accusations” and said: “The regional policy pursued by Saudi Arabia and its destructive approach towards Iran and other countries have turned the region into a weapons depot for Western companies which has led to more foreign interference in the region. “Iran does not tolerate any interference in its nuclear and missile program and matters related to its military and defence policies”, he added. View More 5 January 2021 Referring to the “Al-Ula Declaration”, based on which Qatar and four Arab states reestablished diplomatic ties, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif hailed Qatar “for the success of its brave resistance to pressure and extortion” and addressed “our other Arab neighbours” by saying: “Iran is neither an enemy nor threat. Enough scapegoating – especially with your reckless patron [ie, President Trump] on his way out”. “[It’s] time to take our offer for a strong region”, he added. The same day, Saudi Crown Prince Bin Salman told the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit that “we are in utmost need to unite our efforts to advance our region and confront the challenges that surround us, particularly the threats posed by the Iranian regime’s nuclear program, its ballistic missile program, its destructive sabotage projects as well as its terrorist and sectarian activities”. He further urged “the international community to work seriously in order to stop these programs and projects that threaten regional and international peace and security”. View More 31 December 2020 Bahrain’s High Criminal Court sentenced and penalised “the Iran-owned Future Bank… [and] several Iranian banks” for money laundering; five Future Bank officials were also given five-year prison sentences and fines. View More 30 December 2020 The U.S. and Bahrain concluded a strategic dialogue, where “the participants discussed U.S. support for the Kingdom of Bahrain… in its efforts to enhance its military and security capabilities and the longstanding U.S.-Bahrain security relationship”. According to their joint statement, the two sides “reiterated their joint commitment to deter and confront external threats to the Kingdom of Bahrain and improve regional stability”. View More 22 December 2020 Bahrain’s U.S. ambassador, commenting on a potential U.S. return to the JCPOA, maintained that “it is important for us to be a part of the conversation, because it is us [in the region] who have a front row seat to any development, and it is us who will have to endure all the consequences”. Relatedly, Israel’s envoy in Washington argued that “if you go back to JCPOA 1.0 in hopes that you will negotiate and get 2.0 it’s never going to happen. You’re giving up all your leverage”. The UAE’s ambassador also maintained that “America should maintain strong relations with all its partners in Europe and the Middle East and show up with both groups at the negotiating table”. Iran’s UN mission subsequently emphasised that Tehran “will not renegotiate an accord already agreed to”, while asserting: “We are ready to negotiate regional issues, but only with neighbours and countries in the region… Iran does not believe that there is any need for foreign powers’ presence at that dialogue”. View More 15 December 2020 The U.S. State Department sanctioned “the Saraya al-Mukhtar group as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist… for posing a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism that threaten the national security and foreign policy of the U.S.”. According to Secretary Pompeo, the group “is an Iran-backed terrorist organisation based in Bahrain, reportedly receiving financial and logistic support from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”, and its “self-described goal is to depose the Bahraini government with the intention of paving the way for Iran to exert greater influence in Bahrain”. “The group has plotted attacks against U.S. personnel in Bahrain and has offered cash rewards for the assassination of Bahraini officials”, he added. Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry hailed the move as “a significant positive step”. View More 9 December 2020 The U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Elliott Abrams, posited that “no one has benefited from the rift in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) except Iran… If Qatari planes cannot overfly Saudi Arabia and instead have to overfly Iran on international flights, every single one of those brings a big fee to Iran, and we know what they do with any revenue they have. A good decent amount goes to their military and then to the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]”. “We have thought, now under two administrations, that ending that rift would be a desirable thing”, he added. “We would like to see more unity among the GCC countries, recognising and pushing back against any forms of Iranian conduct”. View More 1 December 2020 In remarks at the U.S.-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Iran as “the number one threat to Gulf security” and praised Bahrain’s “steadfast support of our maximum pressure campaign”. “We recognise the violent nature of the revolutionary Iranian regime, and we understand that when it comes to countering Tehran and many other important issues, Israel is a key partner, and not a problem”, he added. Bahrain’s foreign minister remarked that Iran’s “malign intent and activities are more blatant than ever”, urged “unrelenting pressure on Iran to become a responsible actor”, and affirmed that “we want our partnership with the U.S. to be an integral part of this process in exposing the ongoing challenges of the theocratic regime and its proxies, but also in ensuring that Bahrain and other regional allies continue to have the capabilities to effectively protect their peoples against such threats”. View More 1 December 2020 Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson indicated that “we have clearly told the countries which have normalised their relations with Israel that we will give an immediate response without any hesitation to any security threat against Iran”. View More 30 November 2020 Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry condemned the 27 November killing of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist and urged “all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid new levels of instability in the region that threaten peace”. View More 19 November 2020 On a trip to Israel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with senior Israeli officials and visited the Golan Heights, where he underscored that “each nation has the right to defend itself and its own sovereignty”. Iran subsequently condemned Pompeo’s visit and Syria called his trip to the Golan Heights “provocative” and “a flagrant violation of our sovereignty”. In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked the U.S. for the maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, adding that “Iran’s feet have been held to the fire, and we have seen a reduction in the amount of support that they are giving to their various proxies in the region”. Netanyahu also contended that “the tyrants of Tehran deserve no free passes”. Pompeo in turn asserted that Iran “remain the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in all the world”, adding that “Israel’s provided outstanding support to our pressure campaign, which we have no intention of relaxing”. During Pompeo’s visit, Bahrain’s foreign minister also traveled to Israel for a trilateral meeting. View More 16 November 2020 Bahrain’s ambassador to Washington posited that “in case a new agreement is signed with Iran, the U.S. should go beyond Tehran's ballistic missiles program and take into consideration all the challenges posed by Iran to the countries of the region in the past 40 years, including supporting terrorism, spreading ideology and hegemony [sic] aspirations”. View More 5 November 2020 Bahrain’s High Criminal Court “sentenced three Iran-owned Future Bank officials charged with financial crimes and money laundering… [and] also fined the Iranian Central Bank and other Iran-owned banks”. View More 3 November 2020 Bahrain’s High Criminal Court convicted 51 individuals “on charges of establishing, organising and joining a terrorist group… to commit terrorist acts in Bahrain, based on directives received from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ leaders abroad who take Iran and Iraq as sanctuaries”. Bahraini authorities further contended that the individuals “had received financial support and funding from the Revolutionary Guards and that they were supplied with weapons, explosives, equipment and tools”. View More 28 October 2020 Bahrain’s High Criminal Court convicted “the Central Bank of Iran, along with a number of Iranian banks, the Future Bank and five of its officials” on money laundering charges. View More 18 October 2020 An Israeli delegation visited Bahrain and “signed seven Memorandums of Understanding between Israel and Bahrain as well as a Joint Communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic, peaceful and friendly relations”. The same day, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke with the Bahraini foreign minister and told the Israel cabinet that “this is impressive progress and, of course, we are advancing these peace agreements with them and with the UAE, genuine peace”. View More 25 September 2020 Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen contended that Gulf countries “understand that the threat is not Israel; it’s Iran”. “Iran never gave up from trying to achieve a nuclear weapon… Iran is the number one financier of terror. The places where Iran is involved are suffering”, he added. Relatedly, a senior U.S. diplomat remarked that the U.S. “has laid out a two-track opportunity in the region”. “You can follow the one that we laid out last Tuesday with Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain… Or you can follow the path of Iran – state-sponsored terrorism and proxy wars and militias and Hizbollah and Hamas. And I think there’s a real coalition that’s building together to say, ‘We’ve seen both sides, and we prefer the former rather than the latter’”, he added. View More 24 September 2020 Foreign Minister Javad Zarif remarked that “Iran’s relations with neighbouring countries are based on mutual respect… However, unfortunately, there are some states in the southern section of the Persian Gulf, such as the UAE, KSA and Bahrain, who do not wish to establish durable relations with Iran”. “Their relations with Israel are certainly not a strong point in our relations, but they will not impede our relations with them either”, Zarif added. View More 20 September 2020 Following media reports on Bahraini authorities foiling an Iran-backed “terrorist attack” against “several public and security structures in Bahrain”, the country’s Interior Ministry issued a statement asserting that “the case is dated back to the beginning of 2020, and it is now at the relevant court; hence it isn’t a new case”. View More 15 September 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that a factor in striking the Abraham Accords “was the deep recognition that the primary destabilising force in the Middle East was not the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but was rather the threat posed by the extraterritorial ambitions of the clerical regime in Iran… We identified Iran as the strategic threat to the U.S. and began to lay out a set of policies that would deliver security for the American people related to that”. Pompeo also posited that the Iranians “think this fundamentally is a detriment to their security”. View More 14 September 2020 Discussing the normalisation of Bahrain-Israel relations, Bahrain’s interior minister asserted that “the regional situation makes us deal with ongoing threats for the past years, in which most of them were deterred. It isn’t wise to see the threat and wait for it to reach us if we can in any way avoid it… our old and modern strategy is based on strong allies to confront potential threats”. He further noted: “Iran has chosen to behave in a dominating way in several forms and has become a constant danger that harms our internal security”. View More 11 September 2020 The U.S., Israel and Bahrain jointly announced an agreement “to the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Israel”. Iran’s Foreign Ministry condemned the announcement and posited that “from now on, the Bahraini rulers will be an accomplice in the crimes committed by the Zionist regime [ie, Israel] as the constant source of threat to security in the region and the Muslim world and as the root cause of decades of violence, massacre, wars, terror and bloodshed in oppressed Palestine and the region”. The Bahraini foreign minister responded: “for years Iran has claimed support for Palestine, but it did nothing, on the contrary, it seeks to destabilise security and interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries, arm and support terrorist militias and does not call for peace and coexistence with others”. View More 9 September 2020 Speaking at an Arab League ministerial session, a senior Bahraini diplomat criticised “Iran's threats to the stability and security of the region, noting that Iranian interference is taking place in a blatant and dangerous manner in a number of Arab countries through its continuous support for terrorist organisations, including Hizbollah and the terrorist Huthi group”. He further urged “a firm Arab stance against these Iranian threats”. According to a Bahraini readout, “the council expressed its condemnation of the continuous Iranian interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, its support for terrorism and training of terrorists, smuggling of weapons and explosives, and provoking sectarian strife”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson asserted that “the groundless allegations [against Iran] are made from the viewpoint of the countries which have made the strategic mistake of establishing relations with the Zionist regime [ie, Israel] and are now hurriedly seeking to draw attention away from the source of threat in a mistaken belief”. View More 26 August 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Manama and met with senior Bahraini officials. “The need for unity among Gulf countries and countering the Iran regime’s malign influence in the region” were among the topics of discussions, according to a U.S. readout. View More 13 August 2020 The International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) reported that it had on 12 August “monitored an incident involving Iranian forces who boarded a tanker in the international waters of the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz”. The IMSC further asserted that “Iran’s use of its military forces to conduct an armed boarding of a commercial vessel in international waters constitutes a blatant violation of international law that undermines freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce… this type of reckless, aggressive behaviour by Iran destabilises the region and threatens the rules-based international order”. View More 12 August 2020 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed “some southern neighbours” and affirmed: “Iran’s defence and weapons power is in favour of the whole region, and we use weapons to defend ourselves, and our power is not against you. You have to be careful of those who plunder your resources and sell you weapons to bomb your neighbour… Certainly, if we did not stand for the stability of the region, you would not be here today. So we have always been your supporter and brother”. View More 9 August 2020 The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) wrote the UN Security Council to posit that “it is inappropriate to lift restrictions [due to expire in October] on the supply of weapons from and to Iran until Iran gives up its destabilising activities in the region and stops supplying terrorist and sectarian organisations with weapons”. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hailed the statement as “bold”, affirmed that “the U.S. will introduce a resolution… to extend the embargo” and contended that the Security “Council must choose between arming terrorists or standing by the Gulf”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson asserted that the GCC’s “secretariat, swayed by the wrong and destructive policies and behaviour of certain member states, has turned into a mouthpiece for anti-Iran elements”. View More 6 August 2020 Media reports citing Bahrain’s Interior Ministry indicated that the country had “foiled two attempts to smuggle explosives from Iran after seizing two cars loaded with explosive materials”, adding that “those arrested confessed to Lebanon’s Hizbollah group being behind the operation”. View More 29 July 2020 Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remarked that “Our eternal concerns are helping innocent Palestine and showing sympathy to the injured body of Yemen and to the consternations of Muslims subject to oppression in any part of the world. We also consider it our duty to offer words of advice to the heads of some Muslim countries who have resorted to the bosom of the enemy instead of relying on their Muslim brothers”. “These are people who condone the survival of the usurping and oppressive Zionist regime [ie, Israel] and who extend their hand of friendship to them privately and openly… I warn them about the bitter consequences of this behaviour” Khamenei added. He also remarked that “we regard the presence of the U.S. in west Asia as detrimental to regional nations and as a cause of insecurity, destruction and backwardness for countries”. View More 16 July 2020 Bahrain’s High Criminal Court convicted three officials at Iranian’s Future Bank on money laundering charges; the bank was also among three other financial institutions hit with fines. View More 9 July 2020 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remarked that it “would be tragically dangerous for the region and created instability” if the UN arms embargo against Iran were to expire in October 2020. He added that “we’ve been working with our Gulf state partners, not only to get them to assist the U.S. effort to extend this arms embargo… but second, we’ve provided a great deal of assistance”. “You see all kinds of U.S. sales of weapons… and things that we can do both publicly and otherwise to help provide security in the face of an increasing capability of the Iranians to fire missiles all throughout the region, and ultimately establish a set of missile capabilities that is robust enough to defeat missile defences throughout the region, but strike in places that go beyond even just their near neighbourhood”, Pompeo added. View More 29 June 2020 The U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, met with senior Bahraini officials in Bahrain. In a joint statement, the two sides affirmed “a strong and enduring commitment to countering Iranian aggression. The Islamic Republic of Iran has sought to undermine the stability and security of Bahrain by fomenting sectarian tensions and providing arms to proxy groups and terrorists… the U.S. remains committed to Bahrain’s security and to our deep and effective partnerships to counter Iran-backed terror”. The statement further urged “the United Nations Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran before it expires [in October 2020]... If the international community fails to extend the embargo, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries will suffer the consequences of a destabilising arms race”. View More 18 June 2020 CENTCOM Commander Kenneth McKenzie indicated that “Bahrain is a very important partner for us in the region… it’s really, in many ways, a center of gravity for our operations in the theater”. He further assessed that “the government of Bahrain is actually well-positioned to operate against the Iranian sponsored and proxy attacks that occasionally occur there. And so I'm very comfortable with where they are on that going forward. We work with them on it. And they’re in a pretty good place with that. It's a matter of significant concern to us”. View More 18 June 2020 Bahrain’s High Criminal Court convicted three officials at Iran’s Future Bank “on charges of money laundering, funding terrorism and violating banking regulations in Bahrain”; the bank was also among four Iranian financial institutions hit with fines. View More 13 May 2020 The U.S. convened the UN “Security Council to meet under its 2231 Format to discuss Iran’s April 22 satellite launch”, which it called “yet another example of Iran’s relentless defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231”. According to the U.S. mission, its representatives “highlighted Iran’s ongoing violation of the UN arms embargo in Resolution 2231, reminding Council members that Iran continues to funnel weapons to proxy forces and terrorist groups in places like Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Bahrain”. The U.S. also argued that “Iran’s continued violations of the Security Council’s arms embargo demands greater pressure from the Security Council, not less, and the U.S. will work tirelessly with a coalition of concerned nations to ensure the embargo is extended”. View More 31 March 2020 Bahrain’s High Criminal Court convicted three officials at Iran’s Future Bank and three Iranian banks on money laundering charges. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson asserted that “the rulings have been issued on the basis of a fabricated case, and the bogus accusations against the convicts in the case lack any legal value and bear the Bahraini government’s responsibility for their consequences”. “Needless to say, Iran will not hesitate to defend the interests and rights of its nationals”, he added. View More 12 March 2020 Bahrain’s interior minister asserted that “Iran has allowed the [COVID-19] disease to travel abroad, and in my estimation this constitutes a form of biological aggression that is criminalised by international law, as it has put in danger our safety and health and that of others”. View More 17 January 2020 Foreign Minister Javad Zarif emphasised that "we are ready for negotiations with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf littoral states and we are ready to give proposals regarding security in this region, particularly the Strait of Hormuz”. View More 3 January 2020 The U.S. Embassy in Manama issued a security alert warning that “in light of regional events, there is potential for spontaneous demonstrations or unrest to take place in Bahrain over the coming days, and possibly beyond”. “While we have no information indicating a threat to American citizens”, the statement added, “we encourage you to continually exercise the appropriate level of security awareness in regards to your personal security and in the face of any anti-U.S. activity that may arise in Bahrain”. View More 2 January 2020 In a statement, Bahrain “strongly condemn[ed] the attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy in the Republic of Iraq”. View More 2 January 2020 The head of the IRGC's Qods force, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. strike in Baghdad. The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that "at the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani”, adding that "Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region". Iran confirmed Soleimani’s death, and the IRGC said that four other Qods force members along with five Iraqis, notably including a senior Hashd official, were also killed in the operation. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei subsequently asserted that "enemies should bear in mind that the Islamic Republic of Iran will take tough revenge on criminals over the martyrdom of General Soleimani". View More 22 December 2019 The Saudi foreign minister and the GCC secretary general signed a GCC Unified Military Command Headquarters Agreement in Riyadh. View More 15 December 2019 In remarks at the Doha Forum, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called for “recognition of the imperative of a regional security and cooperation arrangement under the UN umbrella”, adding that “the Hormuz Peace Endeavour – or HOPE – is a continuation of our longstanding commitment to an inclusive and comprehensive regional framework for constructive engagement”. He also noted that “like the nuclear accord, no good idea can be pursued by only one party… While everyone could have benefited from the paradigm shift that the JCPOA promised – as a foundation and not a ceiling – it cannot be expected from a single party to be forthcoming while others are pursuing an opposite path”. View More 10 December 2019 Addressing a GCC summit, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman remarked that “our region today is undergoing circumstances and challenges that call for concerted efforts to confront them, as the Iranian regime continues its hostile actions to undermine security and stability and support terrorism… [This] requires us to preserve the gains of our countries and the interests of our peoples, work with the international community to stop the interference of this regime, deal seriously with its nuclear program and the program to develop ballistic missiles and secure energy sources, safety of waterways and freedom of maritime navigation”. View More 10 December 2019 The GCC Supreme Council issued a communique expressing “its consistent positions and decisions regarding relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, stressing the need for Iran to adhere to the basic principles based on the Charter of the United Nations and the charters of international law, principles of good-neighbourliness, respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in internal affairs, and resolving disputes by peaceful means, not to use force or threaten to resort to force and reject sectarianism”. The council also “expressed its welcome and support for the steps taken by the U.S. to coerce the Iranian regime to stop its destabilising policy of security and stability and its support and sponsor terrorism around the world”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson consequently asserted that “the repetition of groundless allegations in that statement results from the political pressures from a few members of the council, which have made every effort during the past couple of decades to prevent promotion of multilateral cooperation… With their short-sightedness throughout these years, not only have they allowed for the plunder of the neighbouring countries’ wealth, but they have also paved the way for further interference from aliens in this delicate region”. View More 25 November 2019 The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, visited Manama and discussed “several issues of mutual concern” with senior Bahraini officials. View More 23 November 2019 Bahrain’s foreign minister remarked that “we in the GCC, as responsible countries, have never and will never advocate for regime change in Iran. We have never and will never interfere in Iran’s internal affairs”. He further stated that “we have experienced the full brunt of Iran’s interference for almost forty years. Despite periods of increased cooperation, and despite our numerous efforts over the years to have better relations, Iran just does not seem capable of viewing Bahrain as anything other than a target”. View More 23 November 2019 A senior U.S. defence official met with Bahrain’s King and “reaffirm[ed] the longstanding defence relationship between the U.S. and the Kingdom of Bahrain”, while underlining that “the U.S. and Bahrain are equally concerned about the threat posed to Bahrain and the broader region by Iranian malign activity, and to that end, are supportive of U.S. efforts to ensure a strong force posture in the region”. The U.S. official also “expressed deep appreciation for the support Bahrain provides the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Kingdom and their participation in the International Maritime Security Construct”. View More 15 November 2019 The U.S. co-chaired a meeting of the Warsaw Process Working Group on Missile Proliferation in Romania. The group discussed “dangerous trends associated with the proliferation of missile-related goods and technologies in the Middle East and resulting contribution to regional instability”. Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE were listed as having “contributed to the working group summary statement”. View More 14 November 2019 Iranian President Rouhani claimed that “[a] strategic mistake in the world of Islam occurs when some consider Israel as their friend. It is very unfortunate that some Islamic countries that have to stand up for the interests of the world of Islam and their nation extended the hand of friendship towards the Zionist regime and even use its intelligence against the Muslim nations and the resistance movement”. “The problem is within us and we must reform within; we must solve the problems that they have created for us within the Muslim world”, Rouhani added, further asserting that “Israel and the U.S. are not anybody’s fiends but we are friends of the people of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and the people of the region”. View More 13 November 2019 U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted with respect to Iran that “we’ve denied them resources. We’ve been very effective at that. There’s still an awful lot of work to do. And we have, at the same time, tried to ensure that there was adequate level of deterrence, and we’ve seen that Iran is determined to inflict harm not only on its neighbours, but the world by taking down… five-plus per cent of world’s energy supply”. Pompeo added that “President Trump understands that the driver of instability in the Middle East is, in fact, the Islamic Republic of Iran…the U.S. and Israel are working together along with our friends in the Gulf, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, the Bahrainis and others to try our best to ensure that there’s adequate levels of deterrence [against Iran] and make sure that the Iranian leadership knows that we will not tolerate their continued creation of instability in the region”. View More 13 November 2019 The U.S. Department of State announced that “the U.S. hosted a Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) General Conference”, attended by senior officials from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and other members of the alliance. According to the statement, “the conference included discussions on the situation in Syria, air defense in the Arabian Peninsula, and a summary of recent multilateral collaboration, including the development of a MESA Counterterrorism Strategy and the formation of the MESA political framework”. View More 5 November 2019 A senior Kuwaiti diplomat confirmed that his government had relayed Iranian messages on regional developments to Riyadh and Manama, though “until now no answers have emerged”. View More 1 November 2019 The U.S. State Department in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2018 asserted that “the Bahraini government made gains in detecting and containing terrorist threats from Bahraini Shiite terrorists, often backed by Iran, and from ISIS sympathisers”. It further found that “Bahrain continued to offer its support for countering Iran’s malfeasance in the region”. View More 30 October 2019 The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and four other members of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC) announced sanctions designations against “25 targets affiliated with the Iranian regime’s terror-support networks in the region”. According to the Treasury Department, the designation was “focussed on entities supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran’s regional proxy, Hizbollah”. Secretary Mnuchin commented that “this action demonstrates the unified position of the Gulf nations and the U.S. that Iran will not be allowed to escalate its malign activity in the region”. View More 21 October 2019 Bahrain in partnership with the U.S. and Poland hosted the Warsaw Process Working Group on Maritime and Aviation Security in Manama “to exchange views on how to deal with the Iranian menace and to guarantee freedom of navigation”. Media reports indicated that a senior Israeli official attended the Conference. View More 13 October 2019 Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa remarked that “one-fifth of the world’s oil and gas supply is launched from the waters of the Arabian Gulf, and any threat to the freedom of navigation is therefore considered a disruption to world trade, a disturbance to oil prices and a challenge to the global order”. He further asserted that “the international community must come together to take firm steps to deter the aggressor, and oblige it to respect international maritime safety laws and treaties, in order to maintain international peace and security”. View More 6 October 2019 Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz announced that “recently I have been promoting, with the backing of the prime minister, a diplomatic initiative to sign ‘non-aggression agreements’ with the Arab Gulf states… it’s a historic move that will end the conflict and enable civilian cooperation until the signing of peace agreements”. View More 4 October 2019 A senior U.S. military official assessed with respect to the Iranians that “I don’t believe that they’re drawing back at all” since the 14 September attack against Saudi energy facilities, which he asserted was carried out to “send a signal and harass and provoke”. Referring to U.S.-led maritime security operations, the official indicated that “what [Operation] Sentinel seeks to do is shine a flashlight across that and make sure that if anything happens in the maritime, they will be exposed for that activity… we’ve created essentially a zone defence”. View More 3 October 2019 Senior Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) military officials met in Riyadh, and in a joint statement “affirmed the readiness of the armed forces of all GCC countries to confront and deal with any threats or terrorist attacks”. They further “condemned the attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s oil tankers and the threat of free navigation, confirming their support for the efforts of the Kingdom and the GCC countries in confronting any threat or aggression against them”. View More 28 September 2019 In his address to the UN General Assembly, Bahrain’s foreign minister remarked that “the adoption of the Iranian regime of transitional terrorism has created networks of terrorist organisations and extremist militias, located in many places and different parts of the world such as Syria, Yemen, North Africa, the countries of the Sahara and the Sahel, South America and others. This requires us to intensify our efforts and enhance collective cooperation in order to eliminate them and prevent their return in any form”. He also applauded “the decisive course taken by the friendly U.S. in confronting Iran and its affiliates in the region, through exerting maximum pressure and imposing strict sanctions”. He went on to assert that “global energy supplies and maritime navigation in the waters of the Arabian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz and the region as a whole are severely threatened by the behaviour of the Iranian regime and its frequent targeting of commercial vessels in the region”, adding condemnation of the 14 September attacks on Saudi energy facilities “which Iran bears responsibility for”. View More 18 September 2019 Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) members convened in Washington and “condemn[ed] in the strongest terms the attack on the Aramco oil facilities in Saudi Arabia on September 14 which sought to disrupt oil markets and regional stability”. View More 17 September 2019 Secretary of State Pompeo “discussed the importance of countering the Iranian regime’s malign influence in the region” with Bahrain’s crown prince. View More 11 September 2019 The Arab Quartet Ministerial Committee for Follow-up of the Crisis with Iran and Response to its Interventions in Arab Internal Affairs, chaired by the UAE and including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the Secretary-General of the Arab League, “condemned Iran's continued support for terrorist and subversive acts in the Arab countries, including the continued firing of Iranian-made ballistic missiles from Yemeni territory into populated cities in the Kingdom”. It also denounced remarks by Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s as “intended to provoke sedition and incite hatred; and which is an extension of the dangerous role of this terrorist party, which is considered as one of the arms of Iran aiming to destabilise the security and stability in the region”. Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson responded that “the rehash of groundless accusations against [Iran’s] eternal ownership of its three islands in the Persian Gulf and the blame game by some Arab countries whose regional policies have failed are… the reason behind their failure to understand the realities of the region and the world”. He went on to say that “it is regrettable that some, instead of relying on the power of Persian Gulf states, make divergent, unfounded and undocumented allegations about the security of the region and welcome foreigners with their desperation”. View More 3 September 2019 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu commended “remarks by the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the UAE against Hizbollah’s aggression”, and praised the U.S. for imposing sanctions against “the bank that provides Hizbollah with most of its funds”. He further remarked that “I defined three main goals for the IDF and the security arms in the following order: First of all, to stop and prevent the Iranian nuclear project. Second, to prevent Iran from supplying our enemies and its proxies, such as Hizbollah and others, with precision weapons that endanger us. And third, to prevent Iran and its proxies from entrenching on our borders”. Netanyahu added that “in effect, we are acting vis-à-vis all of these goals, in part openly and a considerable part covertly. We are determined to maintain the security of Israel”. View More 29 August 2019 In a statement, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry announced that it “rejects and condemns the Bahraini Foreign Minister’s tweet about the recent attacks on Arab territories and the Popular Mobilisation Forces by Zionist enemy [i.e. Israel] under the pretext of self-defence”. View More 19 August 2019 Meeting with the head of U.S. Central Command, Bahrain’s King Hamad “confirmed the Kingdom of Bahrain’s participation in the joint effort to preserve the safety of international maritime navigation and secure international corridors for trade and energy in the region”. In a statement, the CENTCOM chief welcomed Bahrain’s participation and asserted that “threats to the free flow of commerce are an international problem requiring an international solution, and we are pleased that the Kingdom of Bahrain will be a part of that solution”. View More 8 August 2019 Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson condemned the hosting by Bahrain of what it described as “an anti-Iran summit on maritime security” and contended that “such meetings are a move to disrupt stability and security and pave the way for interference in the Persian Gulf region by trans-regional powers and the Zionist regime of Israel”. In response, Bahraini Foreign Ministry stated that “hosting such meetings and conferences come in line with the Kingdom’s continued efforts and policies that are based on active participation to provide security and peace through collective action and joint cooperation with allies and international partners”. It also “called upon Iran to stop such irresponsible statements, refrain from issuing empty threats or committing any acts that may cause tensions and to commit to de-escalation”. View More 31 July 2019 Referring to the 27 July execution by Bahrain of two men charged with “joining a terrorist group, committing murders and possessing explosives and firearms to carry out terror acts”, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that “oppression and coercion won’t persist and the decision and willpower of justice-seeking nations will eventually take over”. View More 31 July 2019 Bahrain hosted an international meeting to “discuss means to enhance international cooperation and coordination in order to combat the rejected and repeated hostile practices of Iran and its terrorist affiliates, which aim to undermine the security of maritime navigation in the Arabia Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz”. Media reports had earlier indicated that the UK had helped convene the consultations with U.S. and European participation. View More 17 July 2019 The U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister jointly announced that Bahrain would host an international meeting on maritime security later in the year. View More 1 July 2019 The head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service blamed Iran for the tanker incidents in the Gulf of Oman and an attack on the Bahrain’s embassy in Iraq, contending that “with certainty, based on the best sources of both Israeli and Western espionage… Iran is behind these attacks. They were approved by Iranian leadership and carried out, in large part, by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies”. View More 30 June 2019 A Bahraini appeals court overturned an earlier decision to revoke the citizenship of 92 Shiites convicted for plotting to form a group linked to IRGC. However, their prison sentences were upheld. View More 31 May 2019 As Saudi Arabia hosted summits of the OIC, GCC and the Arab League, Iran’s diplomatic spokesperson contended that “we deem the Saudi efforts to mobilise the views of neighbouring and Arab countries a continuation of the indecisive process that the U.S. and the Zionist regime [i.e. Israel] are pursuing against the Islamic Republic of Iran”. He further stressed that “Saudi Arabia took political and instrumental advantage of the auspicious month of Ramadan and the holy city of Mecca to make accusations against the Islamic Iran from the mouth of some participants in the conference”. View More 30 May 2019 The GCC Supreme Council issued a communique highlighting “the need that Iran spares the region the dangers of war by abiding by the international laws and conventions, stop interference in the internal affairs of the countries of the region, and stop supporting terrorist groups and militias and threatening the security of maritime navigation”. The statement went on to applaud “the actions taken by the U.S. to confront Iran”. View More 30 May 2019 An Arab League communique criticised “the continuing Iranian interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, supporting terrorism, training terrorists, smuggling arms and explosives, and inciting sectarian strife to destabilise security, order and stability”. View More 19 May 2019 U.S. Central Command stated that "Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations commenced enhanced security patrols across the region in international waters May 18", adding that "ships of the GCC - both navies and coast guards - are working in tight coordination with each other and the United States navy". View More 19 May 2019 An interior ministry official indicated that "an investigation into the social media accounts that tended to encourage sedition and harm civil peace, social fabric and stability had shown that most of them were managed by sources in Iran, Qatar, Iraq and European countries" View More 18 May 2019 Bahrain's government asked "all citizens present in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq to leave immediately for their safety and security". View More 9 May 2019 President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, indicated that the Bahraini government was "contracting with my company to do security consulting for them, with specific emphasis on things that appeared to be perpetrated by terrorists... specifically in regard to [alleged] terrorist acts perpetrated in large part by Iran or Iranian proxies". View More 3 May 2019 The Defense Security Cooperation Agency advised the U.S. Congress on State Department approval for the sale of nearly $2.5 billion in Patriot missile systems to Bahrain, as well as weapons for its F-16 fighter jets worth a further $750 million. View More 2 May 2019 Bahrain's top diplomat indicated that "we see an opportunity for Tehran to review its policy, which had so far brought it to the brink of the abyss". He also opined that Iranian statements about blocking the Strait of Hormuz constitute "a blunt threat to all Gulf states. I still believe that Iran might think thoroughly before taking such a step because it would be a dangerous escalation that would not be allowed to last for even one day". Tehran responded to the comments the following day, with a spokesman saying that "out of benevolence and neighbourliness, Iran advises the officials of this tiny dependent country [i.e Bahrain] to know their limits when threatening those bigger than themselves". View More 27 April 2019 After Bahrain's top diplomat suggested that Iraq's Muqtada al-Sadr would be well-served by "directing his words to the Iranian regime that controls his country" instead of referring to Bahrain in recent remarks, the Iraqi government called for an apology and suggested that the official's comments "harm Iraq, its sovereignty and independence, especially when the Bahraini Minister speaks of Iraq being under the control of neighbouring Iran". View More 25 April 2019 Iran's diplomatic spokesperson criticised Saudi Arabia and Bahrain's endorsement of expanded U.S. sanctions against Iran, suggesting that their positions showed "blind obedience to the U.S." He added that "Iran will not allow any market to replace it in the oil market, and holds the U.S. and the aforesaid countries... accountable for all consequences". View More 23 April 2019 Bahrain's foreign ministry applauded the U.S. decision to end sanctions waivers on Iranian oil sales, describing the move as "crucial in order to further support and strengthen efforts exerted in combating terrorism and eradicating Iran's malign and dangerous activities that aim to undermine security and stability and support terrorist organisations and militias in the region". View More 16 April 2019 A Bahraini court sentenced 139 individuals on charges relating to "the formation of a terrorist cell in Bahrain funded by, and at the behest of Iranian regime leaders". According to security services, "the IRGC supplied them with all the technical, logistic and financial support in order to organise them into a single terrorist group, the so-called 'Hizbollah in Bahrain'", with training in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. Iran's diplomatic spokesperson dismissed the claims as "groundless allegation". View More 9 April 2019 Saudi state media reported that "an official source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's welcome to the U.S.' classification of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organisation"; Bahrain similarly hailed the designation. In response, Iran's diplomatic spokesperson opined that the two countries were "not in a position to express their stances against the Islamic Republic of Iran by playing a deceitful role" adding that "they will fail to hide behind such worthless stances and deflect the world's attention away from their responsibility in promoting terrorism across the region and the world". View More 7 March 2019 CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel noted that "the government of Bahrain has welcomed the broader effort to confront Iran's destabilisation activities in the region", adding that "Bahrain is a strong partner in countering threat financing, especially helping curtail Iran's efforts to circumvent financial sanctions". View More 27 February 2019 The spiritual leader of al-Wifaq, Sheikh Isa Qasem, met with senior Iranian religious leaders in Qom. View More 21 February 2019 Officials from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other regional governments convened in Washington to discuss "the political and security pillars of the Middle East Strategic Alliance". A subsequent U.S. statement indicated that "consultations included formative exchanges on the strategic objectives of the alliance, with particular emphasis on political and security-related topics". View More 14 February 2019 Prime Minister Netanyahu's office posted, then removed, a video clip taken during the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East showing senior officials from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE criticising Iran. These comments included Bahrain's foreign minister suggesting that "we grew up talking about the Israel-Palestine issue as the most important issue... but then, at a later stage, we saw a bigger challenge, we saw a more toxic one - in fact the more toxic one in our history - that came from the Islamic Republic". "This is the challenge we have to face in order to deal with other challenges", the foreign minister added. The footage also showed a senior Saudi official concluding with respect to Iran that "any attempt to be nice to them, if anything, encourages them rather then discourages them". View More 5 February 2019 CENTCOM commander Joseph Votel noted that Bahrain "has welcomed the broader effort to confront Iran's destabilising activities in the region", adding that "Bahrain is a strong partner in countering threat financing, especially helping curtail Iran's efforts to circumvent financial sanctions". View More 29 January 2019 Bahrain's government hit back at Iranian criticism of the life sentence against Ali Salman, saying that Tehran's statements "reflect the aggressive nature of the regime in Iran" and "mirror the Iranian policy which interferes in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain and other Arab states in order to promote chaos, tension and violence in the region". The Bahraini response further noted that Iran was trying "to cover the suffering of the Iranian people which results from the regime's practices... and its support for terrorism in the region against the interests of the Iranian people who live in poverty, repression and violence caused by the Iranian regime". It went on to call for "active action and a firm response by the international community to force the Iranian regime to respect international laws and charters, the sovereignty and independence of states and non-interference in its internal matters". View More 28 January 2019 Following a top Bahraini court's decision to confirm a life sentence for the secretary general of al-Wifaq, Ali Salman, a U.S. diplomatic spokesperson suggested that the ruling "narrows the space for free expression and political activity, something historically protected under Bahrain's constitutional system". Iran's diplomatic spokesperson also weighed in on the ruling, stating that "issuing a cruel verdict based on unsubstantial accusations... shows that the Bahraini government, by relying on the support of some foreign countries, is pursuing a plan to eliminate any peaceful voice of protest in the country". View More 15 January 2019 In discussions with the U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, Bahrain's foreign minister "stressed the Kingdom's full support and solidarity with all the efforts exerted by the U.S. in confronting the policies of the regime in Iran that undermine peace and security, countering Iran's interference in the internal affairs of the region's countries, as well as Iran's support for terrorism and its practices to escalate tension and violence across the region and the world". View More 15 January 2019 The U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, argued that "Iran's support of proxies... in Bahrain is part of a much larger strategy to destablise the region. Iran must stop testing and proliferating missiles, stop launching and developing nuclear-capable missiles and stop supporting its militias in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen". He went on to posit that "Iran... has tried to weaken national identity in Bahrain and create sectarian divisions. But Bahrain's leaders have responded by deepening their commitment to peaceful coexistence and religious freedom". View More 11 January 2019 Secretary Pompeo held talks with Bahrain's king and other senior Bahraini officials in Manama. A U.S. statement noted that "the leaders addressed critical priorities, including counter-terrorism, Yemen and countering the Iranian regime's dangerous activities". View More 10 January 2019 Secretary Pompeo remarked that "Bahrain has exposed the IRGC proxies that are active in its country and... is working to stop Iran's illicit maritime activities in its region". View More 7 January 2019 Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid al-Khalifa, responded to a tweet by his Iranian counterpart decrying "decades of failed U.S. policies in our region" with a riposte regarding Iran's "decades of ill intentions, hegemonic aims and misrepresentation of a proud nation". View More 4 January 2019 Ahead of Secretary Pompeo's visit to Manama, a senior U.S. diplomat asserted that "in Bahrain, the Iran policy will be front and centre. Bahrain is a front-line state, if you will, in our Iran strategy. Iran seeks to agitate the Shiite population in Bahrain through weapons trafficking and various other means". View More 6 December 2018 As Israel carried out operation "Northern Shield", Bahrain's foreign minister tweeted "is terrorist Hizbollah's digging of the tunnels under Lebanon's border not a flagrant threat to Lebanon's stability, which it shares responsibility for? Who bears responsibility when neighbouring countries take upon themselves to eliminate the threat they face?" View More 29 November 2018 The U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, showcased various arms collected by Bahrain which Iran purportedly provided "to Shia militant groups to carry out against the government". "The U.S.", Hook indicated, "stands with Bahrain to protect its sovereignty, and we will continue to work together to identify and intercept arms shipments in the region". View More 26 November 2018 The State Department "welcome[d] a successful first round of voting in Bahrain's parliamentary and municipal elections", going on to call for "a continued commitment to an inclusive, peaceful and democratic political process as voters return to the polls" in the second round of voting on 1 December. View More 24 November 2018 Bahrain held parliamentary and municipal elections, reporting 67 and close to 70 per cent participation, respectively. The Interior Ministry alleged that "Iran was the source for 40,000 e-messages to disturb the parliamentary and municipal elections". View More 20 November 2018 In an article on the upcoming elections, Bahrain's ambassador to the U.S. acknowledged that the government "has barred a few political societies over the years for inciting hatred and violence. Societies are prohibited from associating with foreigners whose goal is to topple the government. The societies that were dissolved were proven to have conspired with foreign enemies of the state". "Bahrain was merely protecting its sovereignty", he argued, "not shutting down dissent". View More 14 November 2018 Tehran-based Tasnim News Agency hosted a press conference featuring members of the Bahraini opposition. View More 14 November 2018 Bahrain's Interior Ministry assessed "that malicious calls to boycott parliamentary and municipal elections were made by social media accounts that are managed from outside Bahrain, particularly from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon". View More 14 November 2018 According to the U.S. State Department, Secretary Pompeo spoke with Bahrain's Crown Prince by telephone and discussed, among other issues, "countering the Iranian regime's malign influence in the region". View More 13 November 2018 A senior U.S. diplomat maintained that "in Bahrain, Tehran has developed a close partnership with the Ashtar Brigades - an organisation working to overthrow the Bahraini government. Iran provides al-Ashtar with training, funding and weapons, enabling the group's terrorist attacks". View More 8 November 2018 Bahrain rejected international criticism over its parliamentary elections, insisting that polls "have been and are still held according to international standards of freedom, fairness, independence and transparency". According the council of representative's human rights committee, "some of the dissolved associations had been found guilty of receiving political and financial support from... Iran, Qatar and Hizbollah terrorist organisation". View More 7 November 2018 The State Department indicated that "the U.S. is concerned by the verdict sentencing Ali Salman to life in prison", adding that "the U.S. will continue to engage regularly with the Government of Bahrain on a range of shared interests, including the importance of safeguarding fundamental freedoms and human rights". View More 4 November 2018 The secretary general of al-Wifaq, Ali Salman, and two other al-Wifaq officials were sentenced by the High Court of Appeals to "life imprisonment due to the seriousness of their crimes, which included sharing sensitive security materials with the government of Qatar, and collaborating with Qatari officials to support acts of violence throughout the Kingdom of Bahrain". In a statement, al-Wifaq asserted that "the deepening crisis has forced the regime to resort to reckless and insane measures in a bid to get out of its isolation. That is why it is taking political prisoners as hostages". Iran condemned the decision. View More 1 November 2018 Bahraini security forces revealed that they had "foiled an attempted trafficking operation of six fugitives wanted on terrorism charges", alleging that one of six people detained "was in contact with a fugitive in Iran who arranged the operation". View More 27 October 2018 Bahrain's foreign minister described Yemen as "the latest casualty of the Islamic Republic of Iran's quest for regional dominance", and argued that in Iraq and Lebanon "leaderships... are confronted by Iranian-backed groups or individuals who place loyalty to the Islamic Republic over the national interests of their countries". View More 24 October 2018 Citing "intensive and continuous media reports on the Qatari and Iranian moves to influence parliamentary elections in a number of countries", Bahraini authorities announced the establishment of a hotline to receive reports of "foreign interference" in November parliamentary elections. View More 23 October 2018 The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and other members of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) announced sanctions designations against "nine individuals associated with the Taliban, including those facilitating Iranian support to bolster the terrorist group". Treasury Secretary Mnuchin asserted that "Iran's provision of military training, financing, and weapons to the Taliban is yet another example of Tehran's blatant regional meddling and support for terrorism", adding that it "epitomises the regime's utter disregard for fundamental international norms". View More 23 October 2018 Saudi Arabia and Bahrain announced sanctions designations against the IRGC, Qods force commander Qasem Soleimani and other Qods force officials. A senior IRGC official denounced the move. View More 15 October 2018 A Bahraini court convicted seven individuals for their involvement in a November 2017 attack on an oil pipeline; two of the defendants purportedly "received training on the use and making of weapons and explosives in [IRGC] camps for the purpose of committing terrorist crimes in Bahrain". View More 9 October 2018 Al-Wifaq issued a statement calling for "an inclusive national stance to boycott and refuse to participate in the [November 2018 parliamentary] election". View More 4 October 2018 Bahrain inked a $10 billion Financial Support Agreement with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait. View More 29 September 2018 In his remarks to the UN General Assembly, Bahrain's foreign minister decried Iran's "policy of destruction", arguing that Tehran "aspires to impose its hegemony on the region by packaging and exporting its miserable revolution under which the Iranian people suffer from tyranny, oppression and injustice". He went on to laud the Trump administration's approach towards Iran, including the designation of terrorist groups purportedly backed by Tehran. View More 28 September 2018 The State Department endorsed a proposed $300 million missile sale to Bahrain. View More 10 September 2018 Parliamentary elections were set for 24 November 2018. View More 30 August 2018 Bahrain charged thirteen people with “forming and funding a terrorist cell”. View More 13 August 2018 The U.S. state department designated al-Ashtar Brigades’ Qassim Abdullah Ali Ahmed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Bahraini authorities had previously accused Ahmed, also known as Qassim al-Muamen, of membership and in a “terror cell” trained in and by Iran. View More 10 July 2018 The U.S. state department announced the designation of al-Ashtar Brigades as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). A senior U.S. diplomat asserted that “the U.S. sees plainly what Iran is trying to do to Bahrain through its proxy, the terrorist group Al-Ashtar”. View More 20 June 2018 Bahrain’s ambassador to the U.S. urged that the bilateral relationship “be expanded now that our common enemy, Hizbollah, has infiltrated the U.S. along with Bahrain”. He went on to suggest the U.S. “complain loudly – more loudly than it already is – that Iran-backed extremists such as Hizbollah are a universal menace”, and proposed increased U.S. weapons sales so that Bahrain might “defeat this scourge”. View More 21 May 2018 Bahrain’s foreign ministry declared its “full support” for the Iran policy spelled out by the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, asserting that “Bahrain considers itself on the same page with the U.S. in the face of the Iranian threat and in addressing Iran’s attempts to spread violence and terrorism”. View More 10 May 2018 Weighing in on Israeli airstrikes against purported Iranian sites in Syria, Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid al-Khalifa, asserted that “it is the right of any country in the region, including Israel, to defend itself by destroying sources of danger”. View More 8 May 2018 Bahrain’s government applauded the U.S. decision to exit the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. View More 3 March 2018 Bahrain announced the arrest of 116 individuals described by authorities as “suspected terrorists”, and the seizure of weapons and explosives. The government maintained that those arrested “were members of a network formed and supported by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)”, adding that “48 of the 116… had received training at IRGC facilities in Iran and their affiliated locations in Iraq and Lebanon”. View More 1 January 2018 Bahrain’s foreign ministry issued a travel advisory against travel to Iran “due to the widespread unrest, unstable security conditions and severe violence in the cities of Iran”. View More 11 November 2017 Bahrain’s interior ministry described an oil pipeline explosion as “an act of sabotage and a dangerous act of terrorism”, adding that “terrorist acts witnessed by the country in the recent period are carried out through direct contacts and instructions from Iran”. Iran judged the charges “baseless and cheap”, with a foreign ministry official lamenting that “it seems the only thing that Bahraini officials have learned to do after any incident in the island is pinning the blame on Iran”. View More See more III. Background Bahrain, with nearly a population of roughly a million and a half in 2016, is the smallest nation in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The island kingdom has long been a place of popular ferment, owing in part to its relatively open society and in part to the disenfranchisement of its majority-Shiite population by a Sunni monarchy. Bahrain periodically suffered sectarian-tinged trouble before 1979, but the Shiite-Sunni religious rift was not a structural feature of domestic political dynamics. This changed in the aftermath of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Some elements within Shiite communities throughout the Gulf, notably in eastern Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, mobilised and radicalised; in turn, Sunni anxiety heightened. While Bahrain’s government had not pursued a specifically sectarian agenda before 1979, since then many of its practices have exacerbated sectarian differences and fears. The situation worsened in 1981, after Bahrain foiled an attempt by the Islamic Front, a radical Shiite organisation, to take over police stations, ministries and radio stations, allegedly with the backing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The government reacted with a wide-ranging crackdown, arresting hundreds of Islamic Front members and sympathisers, and trying and convicting dozens of them. In the 1990s, the combination of limited civil and political rights, extensive anti-Shiite discrimination, corruption within the ruling family elite, a repressive and largely foreign-staffed security apparatus and a stagnant economy contributed to occasional clashes and unrest. Two major Shiite dissident groups emerged, the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain and the Bahrain Islamic Freedom Movement, as well as two left-wing (secular) groups. King Hamad, who succeeded his father, Emir Isa, in 1999, sought to defuse tensions, promising democratic reforms under the umbrella of his so-called National Action Charter. These included an amnesty for all political activists involved in the 1990s political unrest, resulting in the return of many exiles and facilitating the establishment of the Islamic National Accord Association (al-Wifaq) as a pan-Shiite bloc in November 2001. Yet optimism among the Shiite population slowly faded, including in 2002, when the king unilaterally promulgated a rewritten constitution that the opposition criticised for creating institutional and legal frameworks in which neither the king nor his advisors were accountable. Pent-up anger rose to the surface in 2004, with street demonstrations that took an increasingly sectarian dimension. Al-Wifaq, which had boycotted parliamentary elections in 2002, participated in both the 2006 and 2010 polls, taking seventeen and then eighteen of the national legislature’s 40 seats and asserting its status as the country's predominant Shiite group. In 2011, taking their cue from protesters in Tunisia and Egypt, a medley of opposition groups, emergent political movements and unaffiliated youth took to the streets in Manama and surrounding towns and villages. This was a popular much more than a Shiite revolt, uniting religious Shiites, secular Shiites and non-Shiites around a common agenda. The protesters developed a set of demands that ranged from political and constitutional reform to, for some, outright regime removal. Alarmed by the protests – which Iranian media had cheered on – Riyadh invoked a GCC common security agreement. Saudi and UAE forces deployed to Bahrain, with a mandate to guard strategic sites. Bahrain demolished the Pearl Roundabout square where the uprising had initially begun. Despite the crackdown, protests continued near-daily in Shiite villages for several years, until the government took more aggressive steps to silence the opposition. It outlawed major opposition groups (Al-Wifaq in 2016 and the leftist National Democratic Action Society, al-Waad, in 2017) and banned their officials from contesting elections. At the same time, the government has escalated allegations – which Iran has denied – of Iranian support, training and harbouring of Bahraini dissidents. In recent years, the Bahraini military has repeatedly seized what it said were weapons and explosives shipments from Iran intended for the opposition. The Iranian media has continued to give sympathetic coverage to Bahraini demonstrators. Children holding signs as anti-government demonstrators listen to speeches at Pearl Square in Manama, on 20 February 2011. REUTERS/Caren Firouz IV. Analysis Shiite Fifth Column? As Shiites in Bahrain see it, the discrimination they suffer is the product of institutionalised government policy. During the 2011 uprising, the bulk of the protesters were Shiites (reflecting the composition of the population), but by and large their demands were not sectarian or religious: they called for substantive improvements in democracy, human rights and services. Yet the government sought to portray the uprising as a distinctly Shiite revolt inspired by Iran; it was also under pressure from other Gulf states not to let the democratic current go too far and avoid a scenario in which the Shiites would become the dominant political power, or even try to topple the regime, as had happened elsewhere in the region. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, declared in 2012 that “it is wrong to claim that Iran is involved in the events in Bahrain…. If we had interfered, circumstances would have changed in Bahrain”. In the aftermath of the uprising and crackdown, the government oscillated between attempts at reconciliation and further repression. One example of the former was the commissioning of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which produced the Bassiouni report criticising the government’s heavy-handed approach to protests and found no “discernible link” between the protests and Iran. The government continues to regularly link Iran to attacks and suspected plots. While there is little to suggest close ties between the mainstream opposition and Iran, some marginal pockets within the anti-government camp are closer to the Islamic Republic’s ideology and may be receiving assistance – at a minimum moral and media support, although potentially of a military nature as well – from Tehran, especially from the IRGC, or from Iranian proxies. Little Daylight with Riyadh: Bahrain is closely tied, politically as well as economically, to Saudi Arabia and its Western allies. During the 2011 protests, Saudi Arabia and the UAE dispatched forces to Bahrain under the terms of the GCC’s Joint Defence Agreement. As the International Monetary Fund warns of the kingdom’s “fiscal and external vulnerabilities”, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have stepped up efforts to support its economy. The U.S. and UK have military bases in the country, and in 2017 Washington authorised nearly $4 billion in weapons sales to Bahrain. The combination of military and economic dependence means that the Bahraini government will remain in lockstep with Iran’s regional rivals and support efforts to curtail Iranian influence, in the kingdom specifically and across the region generally. Iran’s Claims to Bahrain: Bahrain has expressed anxiety over occasional but long-standing Iranian claims on the island kingdom as Iranian territory. In 1957, Iran’s parliament passed a bill declaring Bahrain to be the country’s fourteenth province. A UN-administered plebiscite conducted in 1970, shortly before Bahrain gained independence in 1971, concluded that the vast majority of Bahrainis, both Sunni and Shiite, wanted Bahrain to remain an independent Arab state. Although Iran formally accepted this outcome, Iranian officials, diplomats and journalists periodically raise the issue, causing considerable Bahraini (and GCC) irritation. U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo meeting with Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, at the U.S. Department of State, on 3 October 2018. U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT V. Scenarios and Recommendations All Roads Are Said to Lead to Tehran: Bahraini authorities would likely point the finger at Tehran in the event of any attack or alleged plot in the kingdom, such as a bombing or arms seizure. Saudi Arabia and the U.S., both of which are inclined to see an Iranian hand behind any incident targeting an ally, can be expected to join in the condemnation. For its part, Iran might choose to retaliate against the economic warfare that the U.S. and its allies in the region are waging against it by focusing on Bahrain, Saudi Arabia’s backyard and home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, where it may sense an opportunity to deepen existing fault lines and foment instability at little cost. In the absence of genuine political reform and a redress of sectarian discrimination, local opposition based on domestic grievances will continue to simmer, providing an opportunity for Iran to exploit the sectarian rift. The Clerical Conundrum: The condition of Sheikh Isa Qasem, Al-Wifaq’s spiritual leader, is a potential political time bomb. Qasem is ideologically closer to the paramount Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf than to Iran’s clerical leadership. In July 2018 Bahraini authorities permitted Qasem, who had been under house arrest and in declining health, to visit the UK for treatment; he remains in London but has said he intends to return to Bahrain. Qasem’s fate will remain a point of sensitivity between the government and Bahrain’s Shiite population, as well as between Manama and Tehran; a perception of government maltreatment of the aging cleric could inflame tensions.