The Sectarian Divide in the Middle East
Iranian Bombs Seized in Bahrain
Bahrainian authorities announced earlier this week that they had seized explosives and bomb-making materials that were planned to be used in Bahrain, as well as in neighboring Saudi Arabia. Bahrain’s police chief, Major-General Tariq al-Hasan, accused Iran of being behind the explosives, calling the act “a significant escalation”, and claiming that the explosives bore “clear similarities” to those used by proxy groups of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp. “The professionalism with which these seized materials are assembled and concealed is a clear indication of international support and sponsorship,” Hasan added.

The announcement, if true, would indicate a significant escalation in Iran’s campaign to destabilize its Sunni neighbors. Bahrain is particularly vulnerable because it’s a majority-Shi’a country that’s geographically close to Iran, ruled by a Sunni minority. During 2011, large-scale protests wracked the country, and were only with difficulty (and a blind eye from the U.S., which stations the 5th Fleet in Bahrain) repressed.

But for the same reason, Bahrain has a larger than usual incentive to be lying about this discovery: such an accusation gives important pretext to crackdowns the establishment feels are necessary to survive. As the Reuters piece implies, Bahrain has something of a history of crying wolf—if not outright fabrication/false-flag operations—in regard to Iranian terrorist threats.

Either way, though—as an escalation, or as a more bold, clear accusation than usual—this is big. The Sunni-Shia ethnic tensions in the Gulf are rising again, just as Assad starts to totter and the Iranian negotiations draw to a climax. Bahrain’s weakness, and the results of this claim, represent just another way the regional fires could spread.

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