News / Middle East

Bahrain Opposition Fears Effects of Iran-West Tensions

Bahraini  opposition leaders Hamza al-Dairi, second left raising his fist, and Jalal Fairooz, right, holding a candle and Bahraini flag, both former opposition lawmakers from al-Wefaq society, participate in a rally in the eastern village of Sitra, Januar
Bahraini opposition leaders Hamza al-Dairi, second left raising his fist, and Jalal Fairooz, right, holding a candle and Bahraini flag, both former opposition lawmakers from al-Wefaq society, participate in a rally in the eastern village of Sitra, Januar

Opposition supporters in Bahrain have expressed concern that escalating tensions between Iran and the West may further stifle their calls for democratic reform in the Persian Gulf kingdom. 

Bahrain’s majority Shi’ite Muslims took to the streets nearly a year ago demanding a new government and more rights from their Sunni leaders.

The country continues to crack down on pro-democracy demonstrations and blames Shi’ite-ruled Iran for inciting the civil unrest.

Last month, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa alleged that Syria, which is also ruled by Shi’ites, was training young Bahrainis to overthrow the ruling family.

Bahrain’s main opposition party, al-Wefaq disputes the claims.

"We would like to be isolated from the international conflicts," said Matar Matar,a spokesperson for the group. "We are worried about those conflicts and their impact on our country."

Western nations have agreed on sanctions targeting Iran’s lucrative oil industry, hoping they will force the country to abandon its uranium enrichment program.

Bahrain Opposition Fears Effects of Iran-West Tensions
Bahrain Opposition Fears Effects of Iran-West Tensions


Tehran insists its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes and has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a major route for world oil traffic, in response to the sanctions.

The United States says it will use force if necessary to keep the strategic waterway open, sparking fears of a confrontation in the Persian Gulf.

Al-Wefaq spokesman Matar says these tensions may provide an advantage for Bahraini authorities. "It is easy for the regime here to utilize this conflict and blame Iran for everything happening here in Bahrain and such tone can be accepted in the United States," he said.

Bahrain’s opposition has criticized America and its allies for what it sees as a failure to press the Bahraini government to end its deadly assault on civilian demonstrators.

The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, adding to the complexity of the situation.

Theodore Karasik is director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

"Within the U.S. foreign policy establishment there’s a split between those who believe that Iran is behind what’s ongoing in Bahrain and those that do not.  Because of the U.S.’s relationship with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), however, public officials have to go on-record saying that this looks like an Iranian plot," said Karasik.

The oil-producing monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both wary of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, sent troops to Bahrain last year to help quell the anti-government uprising.

However, according to Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior policy fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, the efforts of Bahrain’s Gulf neighbors were propelled more by fears that the pro-democracy movement would spread to their shores than by fears of Iran gaining more influence in the region.

"This is a domestic issue at the end of the day. Saudis are using, and the Bahraini regime are using this accusation of Iranian involvement to crack down on the protesters, but that’s a false narrative and it’s been quite comprehensively shown that there hasn’t been Iranian involvement," said Barnes-Dacey.

Rights groups say more than 50 Bahrainis have been killed since demonstrations began last February, including four last week. The government denies it was responsible for the latest deaths.

Most analysts like Barnes-Dacey say the situation in Bahrain is likely to continue unchanged unless outside nations intervene.

"The international community really needs to be doing more there to exert pressure and to push the Bahraini government regime to lighten the repressive measures in place and to really give the segment of the population greater political and economic rights," said the analyst.

However, as Bahrain sits both geographically and politically at the center of a geostrategic struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, other experts say that increased international condemnation is unlikely to be heard anytime soon.

"It’s just a case of sometimes you’re caught in a bad place and I think they may be," said Jason Naselli, managing editor at the Atlantic Community.

In a bid to improve the political situation in the country, Bahrain's government recently announced a set of constitutional reforms, giving members of parliament more power to question ministers and more protection from dismissal by the king.

Opposition leaders say the changes will do little to stop the unrest.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site - Middle East Voices. Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid