Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said that the country’s authorities have uncovered an Iranian bank that was financing acts of terrorism in the island kingdom. Speaking at the Arab Media Forum in the United Arab Emirates, the Bahraini top diplomat said Manama would be open to improving its relations with Tehran if the latter changes its regional posture and stops meddling in the internal affairs of the Arab countries. He added that the discovery of the Iranian bank promoting terrorism makes Bahrain more cautious about having economic and trade ties with Iran at this point.
“Iran was seeking to undermine our country posing the biggest threat. And then we resolved this issue with Iran and it became an ally and friend. But since 1997, the differences have been renewed. Iran and its people suffer the most from the current system. If Tehran changed its provocative policies, we will not hesitate to build bridges with it, and it will be better for all,” the top Bahraini diplomat concluded.
Comment: The Bahraini foreign minister did not elaborate on his allegations that an Iranian bank was sponsoring terrorism in the island country. But on April 3, the Washington Post reported that Bahraini investigators have found evidence of a multi-billion-dollar corruption scheme by a now-defunct bank that helped Iran circumvent international sanctions for many years. The Future Bank – which according to the Post reporting is partly owned by Iranian lenders – manipulated financial documents to hide illicit transactions between Iran and its foreign partners.
Relations between Bahrain and Iran have sunk to a new low recently as Manama accuses Tehran of having sponsored the latest series of anti-government attacks in the kingdom.
In February, the Bahraini Foreign Ministry announced that the country’s security forces have arrested four members of a “terrorist cell” involved in a bomb attack on an oil pipeline and claimed that the suspects had received training in Iran by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). According to Al-Khaleej Online, the suspects were behind the pipeline explosion that occurred on November 10 near Buri village close to the Bahraini capital city of Manama. A statement released by the ministry alleged that the members of the group responsible for the bomb attack had received training in Iran in how to manufacture and use explosive devices and firearms.
In a similar allegation in January, Bahrain’s interior minister said Tehran and its regional proxies were supporting militant groups that carry out terrorist actions on the Bahraini soil. Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa specifically accused the IRGC, the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian-linked Iraqi militia groups of sponsoring “terrorist groups” to destabilize Bahrain.
Last year, Bahraini officials also complained that the IRGC supported groups that attacked Bahraini security forces. In late March, for example, Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior said it dismantled an Iran-backed group that planned terrorist attacks in the island kingdom, including assassination of high-profile government officials. According to state-run Bahrain News Agency, 11 of the 14 individuals arrested were suspected of having received training in Iraq by the IRGC and Lebanese Hezbollah.
Allegations about Iran’s support for acts of terrorism in Bahrain are also worrisome to the US military as its Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain – a strategic location that helps the US Navy to ensure the security of maritime activity in the region, support the fight on terrorism, and monitor Iran’s subversive activities across the Middle East.