Iran responds to US pressure with new attempts to destabilise Bahrain
LONDON - Iran has been mobilising groups sympathetic to its causes to protest outside of Gulf countries’ embassies across Europe and intensifying their pro-Iranian activities in the Gulf region, political observers said.
The moves come as the United States designated Qassim Abdullah Ali Ahmed, a Bahraini leader of the Iran-backed al-Ashtar Brigades, as “a global terrorist,” a move welcomed by Bahraini authorities.
The US State Department said Ahmed’s “property and interests subject to US jurisdiction are blocked and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with him.”
“The Kingdom of Bahrain expresses its sincere appreciation of this important step by the United States, which is seen as part of the on-going US efforts to confront terrorism and combat its financing for the sake of international peace and security,” the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement August 14 on Twitter.
The ministry called for “joint action and cooperation at all levels to ensure the elimination of all forms of terrorism and deter those who finance or support it.”
Officials noted an increase in the mobilisation of pro-Iranian activists outside the Bahraini Embassy in London, where they called for the release of Hassan Mushaima, who has been in Bahraini custody since 2011.
Mushaima, founder and secretary-general of the hard-line Haq Movement for Liberty and Democracy, was one of the main figures in anti-government protests in Bahrain in February and March 2011. Mushaima, a Shia cleric, is known as a supporter of the regime in Tehran with strong ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Iranian media organs and international media friendly to Tehran have been championing Mushaima’s cause. His son Ali, who is also wanted by authorities in Manama, is leading the protests outside the Bahraini Embassy in London, claiming his father is being mistreated.
“Since the start of the sit-ins in front of the Bahraini Embassy in London, we have followed up with the authorities concerning his father’s condition in prison,” said Dina al-Lazi of Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights. “We found that he was being treated on a regular basis and there was no negligence; in fact, he is having special meals prepared for him in line with his health requirements.”
Lazi said there have been attempts to pressure Bahrain politically and to undermine its independence through false human rights claims.
“There are no shortages in care in our reform and detention centres,” Lazi said.
Tensions between Bahrain and Iran have a long history; however the situation became worse in 2007 when an adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hossein Shariatmadari, called Bahrain a province of the Islamic republic that should be returned to Iran.
During the 2011 “Arab spring” protests, the government in Manama accused Iran of hijacking demonstrations to further its sectarian agenda. Since then, Bahrain and other Gulf Arab countries have reportedly intercepted weapons and explosives said to be meant for groups sympathetic to Tehran.