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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid