The foreign media took immediate notice when, three weeks ago, Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly meetings in New York, and presented a formal complaint against Iran.
The complaint was against Iran “for its blatant violations and the continued unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain.”
And now, this week, when he was on a visit to London, Shaikh Khalid had to face questions from the press on this matter, among many others.
And our Mr Minister did not go back in re-asserting that Iran had embarked on “the path of conquest and power projection” against neighbouring Gulf states.
“We are fighting state-sponsored terrorism,” said Shaikh Khalid. “There are cells operating in Bahrain that report directly to their superiors in Iran.”
Not only is Iran sponsoring these terror cells in countries like Bahrain, but – according to the Minister – also backing attempts by Houthi rebels in Yemen to seize control of Yemen from a democratically-elected government.
Now, without this vehement condemnation of Iranian interference, I feel, there will be no international outcry at the Iranian foul play.
As I referred to, in this column two weeks ago, there is mounting evidence on this matter. In July, just this year, two Bahraini policemen were killed and six others injured after a bomb attack carried out by terrorists trained by Iranian-backed militiamen. Arms and ammunition found in Bahrain strongly pointed to an Iranian origin.
Bahraini security officials have also intercepted attempts by Iranian groups to smuggle weapons and ammunition into the kingdom by sea.
So, in London this week, the Foreign Minister’s responses were significant in the sense that the foreign press is now looking at Bahrain with more seriousness.
Considerable interest was also generated in the media over the Minister’s specific response on the 13th of October, 2015 to Sky News Foreign Editor Sam Kiley on “Gulf State’s acquiring anti-missile defence systems.”
It was pertinent and prompt, I feel, that the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in London made this quick clarification about it: “The Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al- Khalifa was asked whether the Gulf States, in the face of Iranian threats, were planning to acquire an anti-missile defence system similar to that of Israel”.
“The Foreign Minister responded that Bahrain and other Gulf State are in on-going negotiation with the United States to acquire an anti-missile defence system to protect the region.”
And when asked whether the systems would be of Israeli origin, he categorically denied it.
Bahrain is not purchasing anything from the Israelis, he had said. And, obviously, there are no negotiations with Israel neither on defence nor on any other matters.
While the west is attempting to shift the foreign policy of Gulf States in a pro-Israel direction, we must note that Shaikh Khalid vehemently said that not just Bahrain but the entire GCC is committed to the Peace Initiative it has been willing to push forward for many years.
The GCC is firmly committed to the Arab Peace Initiative, he had said. And any normalisation of relations between the entire Arab region and Israel is conditional on the full withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories including East Jerusalem.
And it is time, I strongly feel, that Israel accepts the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinians and moderate Arab states.